Sri Lanka’s parliament is set to vote for a new president on Wednesday to succeed Gotabaya Rajapakse, who fled his economically torn country amid protests to avoid arrest. Sri Lanka’s parliament will today elect three candidates for the post of president – including acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe, ruling party lawmaker and former journalist Dallas Alahapperuma and Anura Kumara Dissanayake from the left-wing Janata Vimukti Peramuna party.
Protests erupted again on the eve of the election against the island’s Prime Minister and Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe. Protesters want him to resign despite efforts to convince him that he has moved away from the Rajapaksa regime.
Indian High Commission advises amid protests
Sri Lankans protested against the interim president outside the Colombo railway station. They arrived at Colombo’s Fort railway station with Ranil’s effigy shouting slogans against Ranil. They wore “Go Ranil Go Home” headbands, after the “Go Gota Go Home” slogans used for former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
“Relations between the people of India and Sri Lanka have always been cordial and cordial. In the current situation, Indian nationals in Sri Lanka are requested to be aware of recent developments and plan their movements and activities accordingly. You may contact us whenever necessary,” the Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a tweet.
How will the elections be held?
Parliament was heavily guarded by hundreds of soldiers on Tuesday, with its entry points barricaded to avoid scenes where protesters briefly seized several public buildings last week.
All 225 members of Parliament will begin their voting at 10 am and it will be taken by secret ballot presided over by the Principal Secretary of Parliament. Votes will be counted and announced immediately.
Candidates need more than half of the votes to be elected. If no one crosses the first preference threshold, the candidate with the least support is eliminated and their votes are distributed according to the second preference.
Among the three candidates, Ranil Wickramasinghe is the front runner.
Wickramasinghe’s lead comes at a price
Wickremesinghe drew support from the leadership of the Rajapaksas’ SLPP – still the single largest bloc in parliament – and his tough stance against protesters went down well with MPs who embraced mob violence.
However, the protests turned intense and violent and the protesters demanded Wickramasinghe’s resignation. Protesters have argued that Ranil Wickramasinghe did not come through a proper mandate but was chosen by the Rajapakse administration.
“Because he was appointed by the administration. That corrupt administration is supporting Wickramasinghe. So we are forcing him to quit,” the protestors were quoted as saying.
‘Here to deal with the economy…’
Wickremesinghe – who first replaced Gotabaya’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister and then as interim president – urged voters and demonstrators to trust him, saying he was not in the “same regime” as Rajapaksa.
“I’m not the same, people know … I’m here to handle the economy,” Wickramasinghe said in an interview with CNN on Monday, adding that he has tried to distance himself from Rajapakse over the past two years. Months to rescue Sri Lanka’s debt-ridden economy.
Other candidates in the contest
Wickramasinghe’s fractured leadership faces a close fight from former media minister Dallas Alahapperuma.
Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, who had earlier expressed his desire to run for the presidency, announced on Tuesday that he would withdraw his presidential nomination. He said his party Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) would support Alahapperuma in the polls for Sri Lanka’s next president.
Meanwhile, Left leader Anura Dissanayake’s coalition has just three parliamentary seats, coming in third.