Sri Lanka elects Gotabaya Rajapaksa successor today in three-way contest

Sri Lanka will see a three-way rivalry between Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Dallas Alhapirumah, Sri Lanka’s rebel leader Bodogana Peramuna, the opposition-backed ruler, and Anura Kumara Dissanayake of the leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Sri Lanka’s parliament elected a new president on Wednesday to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country and resigned after public anger over the country’s worst economic crisis erupted in the streets 10 days ago.

On the eve of the vote, opposition leader and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) candidate Sajith Premadasa decided to withdraw from the presidential race and support Alahapperuma.

Premadasa, son of President Ranasinghe Premadasa who was assassinated by a LTTE suicide bomber in 1993, said his decision was made for the “common good” of the country.

In a tweet on Twitter, Premadasa said: “For the greater good of my country that I love and the people I hold dear, I am withdrawing my candidacy for President. sjbsrilanka, our coalition and our opposition partners will work hard to make @DullasOfficialvictorious.”

He also reached out to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “No matter who becomes President of Sri Lanka tomorrow, this is my humble and earnest request to the Hon. Prime Minister Shrinarendramodi, to all political parties in India and the people of India to continue to help Mother Lanka and her people out of this disaster.”

Alahabiroma, who belongs to Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sierra Leone People’s Party and was the Minister of Information for the Media, emerged as an opposition candidate.

Dissanayaki belongs to the JVP, one of the smaller parties in the opposition fold. His party also supported the protest movement.

Wickremesinghe, who has served as prime minister six times now, is the candidate of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party. She has the numbers to pull it off unless Alahapperuma is able to significantly split the party votes.

The head of the Sierra Leone People’s Party, J. El Perez, the former foreign minister, said the party would vote for Alahabiroma and appoint Sajith Premadasa as prime minister.

Parliament accepted the nominations on Tuesday. Lawmakers will vote by secret ballot Wednesday morning, with results expected in the late afternoon.

And in the 225-seat House of Representatives, 113 seats in favor of a candidate will decide the elections. All eyes are on the split within the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) that may tip the scales in favor of Alahabiruma. But Dissanayaki may be the spoiler.

Wickremesinghe will also look to split votes in the opposition camp, particularly in the SJB party led by Premadasa.

The youth wing of the SLPP has announced that it will support the decision taken by the SLPP faction led by Dinesh Gonawardina to elect Wickremesinghe as president.

One interesting aspect to watch out for is whether former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his son Namal, who have been in hiding, will also appear in Parliament for a vote on Wednesday.

At the Aragalaya protest site on Galle Face Green, the mood was bleak. Several protesters opposed to Wickremesinghe’s candidacy said that if he won the election, they would intensify their protests.

“We want regime change, we don’t want Ranil as president,” said Lasanta, 27, a protester who was wearing a “Go Ranil Go” hair tie.

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