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Lanka polls: Main Tamil party TNA says yet to decide on supporting presidential hopefuls

Press Trust of India  |  Colombo 

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has said that it is yet to decide on which party to support in the upcoming Sri Lankan presidential polls, as the key contenders eye crucial Tamil votes.

The contest to replace Maithripala Sirisena as Sri Lankan president has intensified with the two main contestants -- ruling United National Party (UNP) leader Sajith Premadasa and former defence chief and SLPP candidate Gotabhaya Rajapaksa -- intensifying their poll campaigns.

Both the contenders are wooing the minority Tamil voters as they constitute around 10 per cent of the population and their votes are crucial for the final outcome of the election results.

Talking to a group of reporters on Monday, senior TNA leader Mavai Senathirajah said the party is yet to decide on which presidential hopeful it would extend its support to.

However, he said, the decision would be known before the scheduled date to cast postal ballots.

"There is a large number of state officials from the north and east who are eligible to vote by post. The TNA decision would be conveyed before that," Senathirajah said.

Postal voting are meant for officials on election duty. The voting will be held on November 1, 3 and 4.

He said the TNA and four other Tamil parties would meet UNP leader and Democratic National Front candidate Premadasa this week.

The five parties along with Tamil Students Union have submitted a 13-point demand for presidential candidates.

The demands include merger of the Tamil-dominated north and east provinces.

These demands, political analysts say, are being seen as Tamil hardline by the Sinhala majority community. Any party accepting them would naturally make them lose support from the 74 per cent Sinhala majority in the island nation, they said.

The Sri Lanka People's party (SLPP) has already outrightly rejected the demands.

The Rajapaksa camp relies solely on the support from the Sinhala majority. Yet to garner 50 per cent plus one vote for victory they too have to rely on a sizeable minority voter support.

Meanwhile, the Premadasa camp says they are confident of getting a larger support from the minority communities, including the Tamils and the Muslims, in a repeat of the 2015 result when incumbent Sirisena was elected with minority votes, despite his rival Mahinda Rajapaksa winning the larger Sinhala majority vote.

The 12 per cent Tamil community who voted against Rajapaksa in 2015 says they have seen little dividend for their support. Although some symbolic measures were put in place they remain largely unhappy.

The nine per cent Muslim minority claimed harassment since the Easter Sunday bombings carried out by Islamist extremists that killed 258 people.

An anti-Muslim riot in early May has forced a section of the community to be disgruntled with the current government.

As many as 35 candidates are in the fray for the presidential polls in which over 15 million people are eligible to vote to elect the next president for a five-year term.

The large number of candidates in the fray have necessitated the longest ballot paper ever in the island's electoral history, election officials said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, October 22 2019. 13:00 IST
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