Sri Lanka to elect a new President today


World, Asia

Contest between Gotapaya Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa.

Sri Lankan staff workers leave for polling stations in Colombo on Friday. (AP)

Colombo: Sri Lanka will go to the polls on Saturday to choose a new president, an election that will decide the future of the country that struggles with security challenges after the Easter Sunday bombings and increasing political polarisation.

The election will see a close contest between former wartime defence secretary Gotabaya Rajap-aksa, 70, and the ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa, 52. Anura Kumara Dissanayake from the National People's Power coalition is also a strong candidate.

There are 15.9 million eligible voters who will choose a successor to President Maithripala Sirisina among a record 35 candidates. Sirisena, who was elected in 2015, is not seeking a re-election.

The front runner candidates would be either depending on their legacies or hoping that the larger electorate would forget them while making their choices.
Premadasa, the ruling United National party candidate, banks on his ‘man of the commoner’ image — a legacy of his father Ranasinghe Prem-adasa, the country’s president between 1989 and 1993 until the LTTE assassinated him in 1993.

Premadasa Sr. was a man of the poor. His welfare schemes and his low cost housing programmes had endeared him to the masses. If Premadasa senior is still remembered and loved for his commoner’s touch, the dark side of his authoritarian rule still lingers.