COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Former President Mahinda Rajapakse of Sri Lanka, who was defeated in January, now has a chance to make a major political comeback after his successor cleared the way for him to run for a seat in Parliament in elections scheduled for Aug. 17.
President Maithripala Sirisena said this week that he did not have the power to block Mr. Rajapakse’s run for Parliament, because the alliance of parties he leads is still dominated by people loyal to the former president. But Mr. Sirisena has come under fire from some of his former supporters.
“We never thought he would consent to bring the corrupt Rajapakse regime back to power after we defeated him,” said Saman Ratnapriya, a trade union activist whose collective was part of 49 civil society organizations that backed Mr. Sirisena’s presidential bid. “He has betrayed us.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Sirisena sought to reassure those groups, vowing that he would not allow the former president to be named prime minister, even if Mr. Rajapakse’s alliance gained a majority in the August elections.
Mr. Sirisena said that he “strongly disagreed” with the decision to nominate Mr. Rajapakse as a parliamentary candidate.
But analysts say that Mr. Sirisena may not have much choice, if the coalition to which he and his rival belong, the United People’s Freedom Alliance, wins a majority. Mr. Rajapakse, who formally declared his candidacy on Monday, will run for a seat in the northwestern Kurunegala District, Sri Lanka’s third most populous, which would strengthen his claim to be named prime minister if the alliance gains a majority.
For months, Mr. Rajapakse has been planning his return to power, meeting with loyal politicians and members of the news media at a prominent Buddhist temple in Colombo.
On July 1, he summoned thousands of supporters and reporters to his ancestral home in southern Sri Lanka to officially announce his return to active politics.
“I am not ready to reject the appeal you are all making,” he said. “For the sake of this country, for the sake of the motherland, we must contest in the upcoming parliamentary elections.”
Several ministers, lawmakers and provincial councilors left the United People’s Freedom Alliance on Sunday to protest the decision to allow Mr. Rajapakse to run. “Sri Lanka will not go back to the dark ages again,” said Champika Ranawaka, Mr. Sirisena’s energy minister.
Courtesy:New York Times