COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan Presidential election will be held in January 2015, two cabinet ministers, Keheliya Rambukwella and Maitripala Sirisena confirmed here on Monday.
According to informed political sources, the decision was taken on the advice of astrologers. Politically it is prudent to go for an early poll to clinch the Presidency before the popularity of President Rajapaksa, already showing signs of fading, gets eroded further.
Rajapaksa’s current term as president will be completed only by end of 2016. However, he has the option to call for snap polls after completing four years in office.
Election in January means that Pope Francis’ visit to Lanka will not take place in January as planned earlier. There is a Papal tradition that the Pope does not visit a country one month before and after a national election for security reasons.
There was a fear in ruling party circles and the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp that cancellation of the Pope’s visit would lead to the alienation of the Catholic voters (7 per cent of the Lankan population). But President Rajapaksa feels that he will not need the minorities’ votes if he is able to keep the bulk of the majority Sinhalese-Buddhist community with him. As on date, he is reasonably sure that he can secure enough of those votes to cross the 50 per cent mark to get past the winning post.
Rajapaksa is trying to get the votes of the Sinhalese-Buddhist population (74 per cent of the population) by dubbing the opposition United National Party (UNP) as a fellow traveller of the LTTE, and the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora and its Western allies.
Rajapaksa accused UNP chief Ranil Wickremesinghe of being in cahoots whith LTTE sympahisers and meeting them in London recently. The ruling party is also saying that the European Union court’s order annuling the ban on the LTTE is the result of Wickremesinghe’s machinations.
Rajapaksa hopes to create an anti-LTTE and anti-West sentiment to isolate the UNP and its Presidential candidate-to-be Wickremesinghe, from the highly natlionalist Sinhalese-Buddhist community.