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Political risk consultancy sees Sri Lanka opposition win

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – A New York-based political risk assessment firm which last month suggested that President Mahinda Rajapakse could win re-election has revised its forecast following the latest defections from the government.

The Eurasia Group said the common opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena was likely to "narrowly win," but that a desperate Rajapakse administration could still try to remain in power.

"Fresh defections from President Rajapakse’s ruling coalition suggest that opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena will narrowly win the presidency when votes are counted on 8 January," Eurasia’s Sasha Riser-Kositsky said in their latest report this week.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa holds aloft his manifesto

He was referring to Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen who quit the coalition government on Monday and withdrew the support of his All Ceylon Makkal (People’s) Congress which had nearly 70 elected members in parliament, provincial councils and other local government bodies.

"Rajapakse’s still considerable popularity and control over the state machinery will lift him to victory," Eurasia Group had said a month ago while cautioning that more defections from the government could hurt his chances.

"In November we highlighted the defection of niche parties representing ethnic and religious subgroups as the main risk to Rajapakse’s re-election chances. The support of these niche parties is presaged on the

promise of government patronage and their defection is a clear signal they expect Rajapaksa to lose," Riser-Kositsky said this week.

He also warned of government attempts to discourage minority voters in areas where government forces have a strong presence.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group also warned two weeks ago that Rajapakse could try to remain in power by using security forces, a suggestion discounted by both the military and the opposition.

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told business leaders in Colombo Tuesday that a majority in the armed forces were sympathetic to the opposition and he expected a peaceful transition.

Wickremesinghe said they will hold no grudges, but ensure rule of law which he said had been undermined by Rajapakse who is also accused of suppressing dissent despite the end of the separatist war.

(Read EconomyNext focus on emerging political trend: Sri Lanka set for more polls as battle intensifies)

 

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