The Parliamentary election officially kicked off after nominations closed at noon on July 13th, with all major political parties throwing their hat in the ring to win seats in Sri Lanka’s 15th Parliament. According to the nomination lists 6,151 candidates will compete for 196 seats in the Sri Lanka’s 225-member legislature on August 17th. Battle lines have been drawn in what promises to be a tightly-fought election, with former President Mahinda Rajapakse ready to make a major political comeback and a newly-energised United National Party and the broad alliance it leads promising to defeat him for the second time this year.
In an unprecedented development, the retired President will seek a seat in Parliament, leading the UPFA’s Kurunegala District list. Rajapaksa loyalists in the UPFA have already pledged to campaign for his election as prime minister, even though President Maithripala Sirisena on 30 June ruled out nominating him as the party’s prime ministerial hopeful. “I promise to work to root out corruption and deceit, create a peaceful society and prioritise national security,” the former President told supporters in Kurunegala. “Today, people want change. I am leading the campaign with President Sirisena as the Chairman of the party to form a Sri Lanka Freedom Party-led Government,” the former President told Reuters after he handed in nomination papers.
The decision to allow Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest the election has irked millions of voters who elected President Sirisena to office and disillusioned key ministers and political activists who fought hard for his victory in January. Three members of the Rajapaksa family, Namal Rajapaksa, Chamal Rajapaksa and Nirupama Rajapaksa will contest from the Hambantota District.