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Sri Lanka’s Pre-Election Climate Post-May Day Celebrations

LNW – Political Editorial

May 16, Colombo (LNW): As Sri Lanka marches towards its presidential elections due before October 17, 2024, political temperatures are soaring. The incumbent President, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has indicated a preference for a presidential poll over parliamentary elections, contrary to the aspirations of SLPP chief Basil Rohana Rajapaksa. The strategic meetings and movements of key political figures underscore a landscape brimming with anticipation and strategies to capture leadership.

President Wickremesinghe’s international advisory team has been reportedly convening in Sri Lanka to finalise their campaign strategy, signalling a proactive approach towards his election bid. This move to prioritise the presidential election is constitutionally necessitated, yet it reflects a tactical choice in the face of rising opposition momentum.

Sajith Premadasa of the SJB and Anura Kumara Dissanayake from the JVP/NPP have been active on the campaign trail for months, positioning themselves as frontrunners in the impending election. Recent opinion polls present a mixed picture, though a notable controversy has emerged over fake polling data circulated with the UN logo, muddying public perceptions.

The SLPP camp, still reeling from the legacy of Mahinda Rajapaksa, faces a dilemma. With constitutional constraints sidelining Mahinda, Basil and the ageing Chamal Rajapaksa out of the limelight, the focus has shifted towards Namal Rajapaksa. Discussions within Namal’s circle suggest a calculated risk to propel him as a candidate, despite the possibility of a loss in 2024, aiming for a longer-term political establishment by 2029. However, emerging SLPP leaders like Kanchana Wijesekera, Shehan Semasinghe, Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon, Tharaka Balasuriya and Dilum Amunugama are reportedly leaning towards backing President Wickremesinghe, highlighting a potential rift or strategic realignment within the party.

Three additional candidates—Dhammika Perera, Dilith Jayaweera, and Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe—are stirring the political pot. Rajapakshe, in particular, has garnered attention with his decisive move to enter the race, influenced by a controversial faith healer’s advice and substantial backing from influential sectors within the Sinhala Buddhist community. His campaign, driven by his son Rakitha and supported by billionaire Nishshanka Senadhipathi, underscores the intricate interplay of personal ambition and financial power in shaping electoral contests.

The impending declaration by President Wickremesinghe of his candidacy in mid-June is expected to set the stage for a tightly contested race. With various camps pushing diverse agendas, the political landscape is poised for a dynamic showdown. While the Rajapaksa camp banks on a solid 30% bloc vote from their enduring base, the opposition’s predicted poll lead presents a formidable challenge.

LNW, with a history of fifteen years of fearless reporting despite threats, intimidation and harassment in the past, will be covering the 2024 presidential election with regular updates. We welcome any presidential campaign teams to contact the LNW editor-in-chief with facts for our campaign reporting to provide unbiased reporting to a few million readers and viewers on all LNW digital platforms and allied digital platforms.

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