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Sri Lanka ruling United National Party approves alliance ahead of August polls

COLOMBO, July 11 (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s ruling United National Party (UNP) held a convention on Saturday (July 11) to formally approve the formation of a coalition for the August 17 parliamentary elections.

The coalition will be led Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP include a group of parliamentarians who supported President Maithripala Sirisena, Buddhist nationalist Jathika Hela Urumaya, Minority Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and a number of small minority political parties and civil society groups.

After traditional dance performances, party leader Wickramsinghe told supporters they needed to work together to secure the country’s future.

"August 17, 2015 is a decisive day for you all. The choice on that day is between your future or Mahinda’s (Rajapaksa) future. You have choose between the future of your family or the future of the royal family. You can’t have both. If the royal family comes to power, if Mahinda (Rajapaksa) comes to power your future and the future of your family will be bleak," he said. "We all came together on January 8th and elected President Maithripala Sirisena to end this and give you all a future."

Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family have been accused of widespread corruption, abuse of power and extravagant living.

The formation of the coalition comes after Rajapaksa signed nomination papers to contest in the upcoming polls as a part of a coalition led by Sirisena. Sirisena is a former minister in Rajapaksa’s administration who defected last year to become president, promising fresh elections in 2015.

The six-month old coalition government cobbled together by Sirisena and Wickramasinghe struggled to pass key political reforms and the upcoming polls come after months of deadlock in the legislature, as the Sirisena faced opposition from members of his own Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), who remain loyal to Rajapaksa, while electoral reforms have been opposed by his main ruling coalition partner UNP.

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