Sri Lankans head to the polls for pivotal presidential election

Presidential elections will be held in Sri Lanka today, amid ongoing security challenges and political polarisation. With 35 candidates in

sri lanka presidential election

Photo: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty

Presidential elections will be held in Sri Lanka today, amid ongoing security challenges and political polarisation.

With 35 candidates in the running, there are two clear frontrunners: Sajith Premadasa from the ruling United National Party and former defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Both candidates have strong political pedigrees—Premadasa’s father served as president from 1989 to 1993, while Rajapaksa’s brother served in the same role from 2005 to 2015.

Sri Lanka plunged into a constitutional crisis last April after the Easter terrorist attacks left 269 dead, disrupting state security and stability. In response, Rajapaksa has campaigned on controversial securitisation programs, while prioritising the welfare of the majority Buddhist Sinhalese population. On the other hand, Premadasa is focusing on economic growth, garnering much greater support from the minority Tamil and Muslim communities.

The race is very close, with Sri Lanka’s political trajectory hanging in the balance. Indeed, this election campaign has stirred Buddhist nationalist sentiment across the country, and a Rajapaksa victory could further stoke ethnic tensions. Fallout from today’s election could thus include violent clashes between the Sinhalese and minority communities. One of the first tasks facing the victor will be the quelling of such unrest.

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