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Govt to contest eligibility of opposition presidential challenger

As Sri Lanka awaits the results of Tuesday's presidential election, the government said it would contest the eligibility of opposition candidate and former army chief Sarath Fonseka, who stood against incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse.


AFP - Sri Lanka's government said Tuesday that it would challenge the legitimacy of leading opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka, who contested the country's first post-war presidential election.

"We are seeking a court order on the suitability of this candidate because he is not eligible to be declared as a candidate," Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters.

He said they would seek court action to have Fonseka ruled out of the race after the former four-star general was unable to vote in Tuesday's election because his name was not on the electoral list.


Responding to suggestions from ruling-party lawmakers that Fonseka could be disqualified, the country's independent Elections Commissioner gave the opposition figurehead resounding backing in a statement earlier Tuesday.

"Not having one's name on the electoral list is not a disqualification," Dayananda Dissanayake said.

Bogollagama said the government would challenge this assessment.

"What the Election Commissioner has merely expressed is an opinion, but the courts have the ultimate authority to interpret the law," Bogollagama said.

Asked if it was premature for the government to press legal action even before the results of Tuesday's vote were declared, Bogollagama said they were acting within their rights.

"We can challenge the candidacy of even a defeated candidate," Bogollagama said. "We are not saying that he will emerge the winner. We are confident we will win, but we want the court to rule on his candidacy."


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