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President calls early presidential election

January 26, 2010 - SRI LANKA

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, with two years left in his six-year term, in November called early presidential to take advantage of a rise in popularity after the army's defeat in May of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The defeat ended Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war. His main rival -- or perhaps only rival -- will be retired General Sarath Fonseka, who is credited with leading the final victory. Gen Fonseka says he has never lost a battle yet, and can win the election battle too.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, with two years left in his six-year term, in November called early presidential to take advantage of a rise in popularity after the army's defeat in May of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The defeat ended Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war. His main rival -- or perhaps only rival -- will be retired General Sarath Fonseka, who is credited with leading the final victory. Gen Fonseka says he has never lost a battle yet, and can win the election battle too. Fonseka's war hero status and popularity after the defeat is likely to create a serious challenge for President Rajapaksa. At a news conference in November, reported by the BBC, the general criticized the president for failing to return the country to normalcy after the war, and for foot-draggin on refugee resettlement. He vowed to scrap the executive presidency within six months and to hold parliamentary elections and adopt a new constitution that will uphold democracy, social justice and media freedoms. The Hindu newspaper reports that Fonseka lists the plight of people displaced by the war as one of the 16 reasons he decided to retire early and seek public office. The Tamil Tigers had been fighting since the mid-1970s to carve out a separate nation in the Sinhalese-majority island. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed in the violence. Dec/09

Ex-army chief Fonseka will run for Sri Lanka presidency (BBC 29 Nov 2009)

Sri Lanka opposition endorses ex-general for president (Reuters 26 Nov 2009)

Date written/update: 2010-01-26