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Fri, 24 Jan 2020 01:35 GMT

Date Set for Sri Lankan Presidential Elections


7Dnews London

Wed, 18 Sep 2019 19:35 GMT

Sri Lanka will hold a presidential election on November 16th, the head of the island nation's election body said on Wednesday September 18th, Reuters reported.

The official notification of the election will be published later on Wednesday, Sri Lanka's Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said.

There could be 18 candidates to contest this year's election, Election Commission officials have said while analysts say it is possible that a run-off count will be needed to decide the winner of a tight contest in which no-one is likely to poll more than 50% of first-preference votes.

The main opposition Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has already nominated his younger brother and wartime defence chief Gotabaya as its candidate.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's centre-right United National Party (UNP) is yet to nominate its candidate, but party sources said it was likely to be decided between deputy leader Sajith Premadasa and Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, according to Reuters.

Gotabaya, 70, is seen as the frontrunner due to his popularity among Sri Lanka's Sinhala Buddhist majority, many of whom credit him with ending the 26-year civil war in 2009. But he faces a legal battle over allegations of misappropriation of state funds when he was defence chief, which he denies, along with questions over the renunciation of his US citizenship.

Slow economic growth, national security, endemic corruption and deep ethnic and religious divisions in the South Asian nation will be the main issues at the upcoming polls, political analysts noted.

Economic growth is expected to hit a nearly two-decade low this year, after the Easter attacks on luxury hotels and churches hurt the country's tourism industry.

The next president will have fewer powers than his predecessors, following a 2015 constitutional amendment that will hand more powers to the prime minister and parliament after the election.