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Sri Lanka’s ex-leader to lead breakaway party: Basil

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa will lead a faction that will break away from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), his brother Basil announced today.

Holding a press conference at former president Mahinda Rajapakasa’s office at Battaramulla, Basil made it clear that the new Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLFP) which was registered earlier this month was for his brother to lead.

"He is already our leader and we work according to his vision," he said.

However, when pointed out that the former president himself has not said he was leaving the SLFP to join another party, Basil said they will make sure that his elder brother will take over the party and challenge President Maithripala Sirisena.

The former president who lost the January 2015 presidential election still commands the support of a majority of SLFP legislators in parliament.

A formal break up of the SLFP will undermine President Sirisena’s plans to rewrite the constitution and ensure power-sharing with minority Tamils.

The President has been banking on the votes of the SLFP to ensure he gets a two thirds majority in parliament to adopt a new constitution that he has promised the electorate and the international community.

The President who is the nominal leader of the entire SLFP has been banking on party unity that could in theory form an SLFP-led administration in place of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The deepening split in the SLFP with Basil’s announcement could strengthen the United National Party’s hold on power and weaken President Sirisena who has been at loggerheads with Wickremesinghe’s government in recent weeks.

Political analysts did not expect former president Rajapaksa to take the risk of leading a formal split of his SLFP.

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The new party was formed earlier this month by Rajapaksa loyalists ahead of next year’s local council elections. (COLOMBO, Nov 17, 2016)

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