Colombo: A record 35 candidates filed nominations on Monday for Sri Lanka's presidential elections next month, in which incumbent Maithripala Sirisena will support former defence minister and main opposition challenger Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Sirisena, who held crucial talks with opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday, has decided to support the candidature of Gotabaya, who will now be the main opposition challenger pitted against the ruling United National Party (UNP) candidate Sajith Premadasa.
Sirisena's Freedom Party (SLFP) had demanded Rajapaksa's People's Party to abandon its flower bud symbol to contest under a common symbol. However, the SLPP sources said the request was ignored as the SLPP had already paid its deposit under its symbol.
A record 41 candidates representing different political parties and independent groups placed cash deposits for the election on Sunday. This was the largest number of presidential candidates who deposited money in the history, officials said.
A total of 41 candidates submitted security deposits but six did not file their nominations, they said. The deadline to make the deposits ended at 12 noon on Sunday and Sirisena was not among the 41 candidates who had paid deposits in order to handover nominations on Monday.
Additionally, the election will be the first since 1982 when the incumbent President, Prime Minister or opposition leader would not be a candidate. President Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the main opposition leader Rajapaksa are not in the fray for varying reasons.
Wickremesinghe was forced by Premadasa loyalists to name him as the candidate when the prime minister as the party leader wanted to be the nominee. They can campaign until November 12. The election will take place on November 16.
Among the other prominent candidates are former army chief Mahesh Senanayake and MK Shivajilingam, a hardline Tamil politician from the Tamil dominated northern province.