Wanted: A common candidate

Friday, 21 November 2014 13:31 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

With the election declared yesterday, all eyes are now on who is tipped to be President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s main challenger in the January poll. Speculation is rife that the joint opposition will name their common candidate this evening, although opposition parties are being tight-lipped about the issue. Negotiations about the common opposition candidate ended last evening, sources with knowledge of the discussions told Daily FT. The main opposition United National Party is tipped to endorse the decision at a Working Committee meeting to be held at Sirikotha this evening, party sources said. The Working Committee will decide whether the party is to back the common opposition choice or the UNP Leader for the candidacy, the sources added. Opposition parties are banking on the ‘shock effect’ to rally voters and cross party support once the announcement is made. Opposition groups are also hoping that the choice will engineer further defections from the ruling UPFA Government, that will jitter the Mahinda Rajapaksa campaign. The last four candidates in the ring at the end of a long drawn out negotiations process were UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, UNP Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya, ex-President Chandrika Kumaratunga and in a surprise twist, SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena. General consensus across all common alliance stakeholders was for Jayasuriya, but the UNP leadership was not in favour of his candidacy. The UNP has agreed in principle to fielding a common opposition candidate, despite repeated claims that Wickremesinghe would be the UNP candidate by his recently appointed Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa. The decision to field Wickremesinghe however was never ratified by the UNP Working Committee. Reports emerged that Sirisena has been offered the Premiership during the SLFP Central Committee meeting on Wednesday night, but were neitherconfirmed or denied. In Parliament yesterday, UNP MP Nalin Bandara issued broad hints, claiming that what the country would soon have ‘maithree’ governance. The process to bring opposition parties and disgruntled sections of the ruling alliance was spearheaded by Kotte Nagavihara Chief Incumbent and Scholar Monk Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero. Sobitha Thero has been leading a movement that has been mobilising support for constitutional reform and the abolition of the presidency. Under the conditions of the common opposition agreement, the candidate will pledge to bring constitutional amendments abolishing the office of the presidency within a month of assuming office. The candidate’s manifesto will include the draft amendment that will be put before Parliament within one month of the January election in the event of opposition success.