Former Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is seen as the front runner in the upcoming presidential elections [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]
Sri Lanka will hold presidential election on November 16, the head of the island nation’s election body said, as its $87bn economy struggles to recover from a political crisis and the aftermath of the deadly Easter bombings in April.
Sri Lanka’s Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said almost 16 million people in the country are eligible to vote in the election.
Election Commission officials have said there could be a record 18 candidates.
Analysts say it is possible that a runoff count will be needed to decide the winner of a tight contest in which no one is likely to get more than 50 percent of first-preference votes.
President Maithripaa Sirisena is eligible to run but has not announced his intentions.
The next president will have fewer powers than his predecessors, following a 2015 constitutional amendment that will hand more powers to the prime minister and Parliament after the election.
Slow economic growth, national security, endemic corruption and deep ethnic and religious divisions in the South Asian nation will be key issues at the upcoming polls, political analysts say.
The main opposition party in Sri Lanka, Podujana Peramuna party, is led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa who has already nominated his younger brother and wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s centre-right United National Party is yet to nominate its candidate but party sources told Reuters news agency it was likely to be decided between deputy leader Sajith Premadasa and Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.
Gotabaya, 70, is widely seen as the frontrunner due to his popularity among Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist majority – but is feared by minorities and victims of human rights abuses.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies