Sri Lanka PM forms broad coalition

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe secured the support of a several small, but vocal parties to fight next month’s parliamentary elections dealing a blow to the main plank of the opposition.

Wickremesinghe announced at a party convention Saturday that he was forming a broad coalition that will include the main elements behind the success of President Maithripala Sirisena at the January elections.

The premier’s United National Party (UNP) is publicly calling it a new front, but in practice there will be no new party or front, but one list of candidates contesting from the UNP under the elephant symbol.

Calling it a front" is a front. It is only a facing saving mechanism for the JHU, the Buddhist monks’ party, and the SLFP/UPFA drop outs such as Rajitha Senaratne.

They will be able to claim they are retaining their identity and joining a "new front", but given the fact that no new parties can be registered after an election has been called, they will simply face the election as UNP candidates.

But, the JHU joining the UNP will undermine the main nationalistic plank of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa who has been keen to capitalise on his war victory six years ago to win a seat from Kurunegala.

Kurunegala is the third largest district in terms of voters and the region is also home to a high concentration of military personnel. At the January elections, Rajapaksa secured 53.46 percent of the vote in the district.

However, his position could be seriously challenged this time round with the UNP pushing for field marshall sarath Fonseka to stand in the same district. Both men claim credit for crushing Tamil Tiger rebels in may 2009.

The UNP is set to enter into a memorandum of understanding with like-minded parties on Sunday, a day before filing nomination papers tio face the first general election with the shortest campaign period.

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