Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has ruled out contesting the presidential elections for a second term as he failed to make a deposit to contest the November 16 polls.
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.
A record 41 candidates representing different political parties and independent groups have placed cash deposits for the election. This is the largest number of presidential candidates who have deposited money in the history, officials said.
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 Mahinda Rajapaksa are not in the fray for varying reasons.
Sirisena, who held crucial talks with Rajapaksa last night, has decided to support the candidature of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, 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.
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.
The candidates can file nominations till noon Monday. 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.