ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena today ruled out granting nominations to former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest as a prime ministerial candidate at up coming general elections.
President Sirisena in a special announcement broadcast over state television, rejected opposition-initiated reports that the former president will make a come back as a prime ministerial candidate from the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).
State Rupavahni interrupted its regular programing to announce that President Sirisena had not recognised his arch rival as a UPFA prime ministerial candidate. Nor has the President agreed to make him prime minister at any stage.
President Sirisena is the leader of the UPFA as well as its main constituent party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). The SLFP wil conclude its nominations lists by Friday the 3rd, Sirisena said in a further statement issued to news organisations later in the evening.
There had been talks between representatives of President Sirisena and former leader Rajapaksa in Kandy today, but the talks were inconclusive.
However, former media minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters that the talks had progressed well with one glitch over Rajapaksa demanding to be the main PM candidate.
It had been an emphatic no from Sirisena and sources close to Rajapakse said he was due to announce his entry back into main stream politics tomorrow.
Rajapaksa has organised a press conference at his Medamulana home where he is expected to announce his candidature at the August 18 election as the leader of a new political alliance.
"This will be somewhat similar to president Sirisena’s entry into the presidential election from the Swan symbol," a source close to Rajapaksa said.
This means Rajapaksa will be competing directly with the Sirisena-led UPFA leading to a further split in the SLFP/UPFA combo.
Any further erosion of the UPFA/SLFP base would be advantageous to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who has openly challenged Rajapaksa to enter the fray.
Meanwhile, the Tamil National Alliance said their four-party Tamil coalition will contest the August 18 election keeping its coalition in tact despite fears that some may try to contest on their own after leaving the TNA.
"We have now worked out our arrangement and it is clear that the TNA will contest as one entity and we are confident of retaining out 14 seats," TNA former Jaffna MP, Suresh Premachandran said.
"We may be able to increase our number up to about 17 and we will be a formidable force in the next parliament," he added.
The TNA remaining as a single entity will give them a bigger role in the next parliament and may even make them king makers if no party gets 113 seats in the 225-member parliament to have a simple majority.