Sri Lanka's Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Tuesday announced his candidature for the presidential race, becoming the second leader within the ruling
United National Party (UNP) to challenge Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the election.
Wickremesinghe had been the frontrunner to be the UNP candidate until Jayasuriya and party's deputy leader Sajith Premadasa threw their hats into the ring for the presidential elections to he held between November 7 and December 7.
Jayasuriya, 79, who played a key role in ending a political crisis last year,
in a statement expressed willingness to contest the presidential election "if blessed by all factions of the UNP".
The Speaker said over the last few weeks he had been urged by the Buddhist clergy and the civil society to come forward as the candidate based on a specific agenda.
He said the UNP has steadfastly stood for the abolition of the executive presidency since 1995 and he would fulfil that task as a priority.
"I will enter the contest with the intention of abolishing the executive presidency and not to enjoy that office," Jayasuriya said. "Since 1995, we have wanted to scrap the presidency, but failed."
Jayasuriya's statement came as Premadasa and his band of party seniors held an early morning press conference to announce that Premadasa had officially written to Wickremesinghe declaring his intention to become the party's candidate.
If there are other candidates in the UNP let them come forward. Let's make a final decision through a secret ballot," Premadasa declared.
Premadasa, who is backed by even some of Wickremesinghe loyalists, launched a public campaign, demanding that he be made the candidate.
The party leadership's blessings was not gained for the campaign. Wickremesinghe's one to one's with Premadasa to relent has not succeeded either.
In this backdrop the entry of Jayasuriya as the elder statesman has buoyed the civil society players who were instrumental in the 2015 electoral change when the incumbent Maithripala Sirisena defeated Mahinda Rajapaksa against all odds
The UNP is under pressure to name the candidate with minimum delay as the Rajapaksa camp has made the former top defense ministry official Gotabhaya as its candidate. The Marxist JVP has also announced their own candidate.
The election which must be declared before the end of this month must be held by December 8 of this year.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)