SRI LANKA: Country Heads Into Decisive Elections
On Jan. 1, millions of mobile users in Sri Lanka got an unusual text message amid the flood of New Year’s wishes. The sender’s name read simply as ‘President’. This was no joke by a prankster; it was a message by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It wished millions of Sri Lankans the very best for the new year, adding he had kept his promises to the nation.
Rajapaksa is heading into three pivotal weeks of his long political career, spanning over four decades. He will battle his former army commander, retired general Sarath Fonseka, at the Jan. 26 presidential elections.
The erstwhile comrades who were credited with defeating the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) only eight months back have turned bitter political rivals, making the upcoming election one of the most keenly contested since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1947.
Rajapaksa is seeking re-election on the track record of his first term, claiming he has been instrumental in ending the LTTE insurgency. Vying for another term, he said he has the chance to develop the economy.
Fonseka, on the other hand, hopes to be the first military officer to hold the highest elective post in the country on the strength of his military record. He has also been critical of the incumbent president, alleging that the country was sliding toward nepotism under his watch.
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Published: Sat Jan 9 19:55:48 EST 2010