'War hero' to challenge president in snap election
Sri Lanka's former top general, Sarath Fonseka, will run against President Mahinda Rajapakse in a snap vote next year, a key opposition party says. The man credited with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers resigned last week after a rift with Rajapakse.
AFP - Sri Lanka's former military chief, General Sarath Fonseka, will challenge his ex-boss President Mahinda Rajapakse in elections next year, a key leftist opposition party announced Tuesday.
The JVP, or People's Liberation Front, which had earlier backed Rajapakse, said they secured agreement with Fonseka, 58, to stand against Rajapakse.
The president on Monday called a snap vote, which is due between January 11 and February 1.
"We came to an agreement last night (Monday) that he will be the common opposition candidate," JVP lawmaker Anurakumara Dissanayake said. "We will ensure his victory and the downfall of President Rajapakse."
He added: "He has accepted to be the 'apolitical' common candidate who will work towards the abolition of the executive presidency within six months of coming to power."
He said the JVP was confident that Fonseka would deliver on his promise, unlike previous presidents who also pledged to scrap the all-powerful presidency, which concentrates all executive power in the head of state.
Fonseka resigned as chief of defence staff last week following a rift with Rajapakse over who should take credit for crushing separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in a government offensive that ended in May.
A close aide said Fonseka, considered a war hero for his role in the defeat of the Tigers, was planning to secure broad opposition support before announcing his plans.
Fonseka declined to comment on the JVP announcement.
"I will tell you in two to three days," Fonseka told reporters when asked about his plans.
The JVP said they believed Fonseka was able to defeat Rajapakse, 64, who called the snap election to benefit from the government's popularity following the end of the military campaign.
Dissanayake said Fonseka had agreed to dissolve the current cabinet and appoint an interim government to conduct parliamentary elections, which are due by April.
The JVP as well as the main opposition United National Party have said they will support any move to oust Rajapakse, who has been accused of granting key state positions to family members and of wanton corruption.
The president's younger brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse is the defence secretary, who also played a key role in crushing Tamil Tigers and ending Asia's longest running ethnic conflict.
However, the Rajapakse brothers and Fonseka fell out after all three competed to take credit for crushing the rebels.