Lanka goes to polls next year

Lanka goes to polls next year

Rajapaksa expects to cash in on the victory against Tamil Tigers

Lanka goes to polls next year

The decision to hold the election in mid-January was taken at a meeting of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance Party leaders at the president’s residence here. Rajapaksa’s decision is seen as a move to cash in on the  victory against the LTTE, which held one-third of Sri Lanka’s land under its control when he took over as president in 2005, by turning the polls as a referendum on the military success.

“This morning (Monday), the president met with all party leaders (of the ruling coalition) and decided that the presidential election would be held early next year,” Media Minister Anura Yapa told reporters. The Commissioner of Elections is expected to announce the date of the poll soon, officials said.

Tough fight

However, political experts feel the president may not have a cake walk this time as Gen Sarath Fonseka, who resigned as Chief of Defence Staff early this month following a spat with Rajapaksa, may contest the polls as the common candidate for the Opposition.

Fonseka is widely credited for the victory against the LTTE in May this year.
Fonseka had last week vowed to protect democratic freedom and human rights. “I want to assure you that I will commit myself to protect democratic freedoms which we are rapidly losing,” Fonseka said in a farewell letter to army troops.

Rajapaksa’s party leaders say the president wanted a fresh mandate, despite his six-year term not ending until November 2012. Sri Lanka’s constitution allows the president to call a snap poll after completing four years in office.