Presidential election nomination: Record number of contenders | Sunday Observer

Presidential election nomination: Record number of contenders

Democratic National Front candidate Sajith Premadasa and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa handing over nominations for the presidential election.
Democratic National Front candidate Sajith Premadasa and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa handing over nominations for the presidential election.

Nominations for the 2019 Presidential election which will see a record number of 35 candidates in the race, were accepted by the National Election Commission (NEC) on Monday (Oct. 7).

The 41 prospective candidates who made security deposits for the election by noon on Sunday October 6, dropped to 35 as six ‘would be’ candidates did not back their nominations. Nevertheless, according to NEC, there are 16 more candidates this time than at the last Presidential election. Due to the long list of contenders, a special arrangement was put in place to accept the nominations, given that within two hours, i.e. from 9 am to 11am, all presidential hopefuls were required to hand over their nomination papers prepared in several sets.

Hence, all three commissioners, Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya, member Prof.Ratnajeevan Hoole and member N.J.Abeysekera PC simultaneously accepted the nomination papers from the candidates who stood in line at the NEC auditorium. Of the total number of candidates, 20 were fielded by political parties and 15 were independent candidates.

One of the ‘firsts’ of this election is the number of candidates, i.e. the highest recorded so far in Sri Lanka’s presidential election history. Sixteen more candidates entered the fray this time as compared to the last presidential election in 2015.

The highest number of candidates in a presidential election, 22 previously, was recorded in the year 2010 in which Mahinda Rajapaksa secured his second term in a landslide victory after winning the LTTE war.

The present election will go down in history as the first to witness the son of a former Sri Lankan President running for office, and an election where none of the former presidents or opposition leaders are contesting.

Democratic National Front (DNF) candidate Sajith Premadasa is the son of former President Ranasinghe Premadasa.It is also the first time after 20 years that a woman is contesting the highest office in the country since Chandrika Kumaratunga contested in 1999.

Among the candidates are a former Army Commander and eight former MPs contesting as independent candidates. Three former Muslim parliamentarians are also in the fray.

Siritunga Jayasuriya, Leader of the United Socialist Party, a breakaway faction of the LSSP was the first to hand over nomination papers to the NEC soon after the auditorium doors opened to accept nominations on Monday (7) morning.

He submitted his papers to the Chairman, Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya. Jayasuriya was followed by former parliamentarian Jayantha Ketagoda, an independent candidate and Ven.Bataramulle Seelarathana thera of the Janasetha Front. By 10 am, 27 candidates had done their honours for the forthcoming election.

The JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, contesting from the National People’s Movement handed over his nominations at 9.37am. DNF candidate Sajith Premadasa arrived at the Elections Secretariat with his wife Jalani Premadasa. He handed over his nomination papers at 10.04am.

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa who arrived with his lawyer Ali Sabri and the SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam handed over his nomination at 10.16am.

Former Minister Kumara Welgama who placed deposits to contest the election as an independent candidate but declined to hand over nominations said he retracted his decision as he would not be able to win the election.

Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa who placed deposits under the Sri Lanka Nidahas Podujana Sandanaya ticket, a new alliance intended to bring together the SLFP and SLPP parties, had prepared for the presidential race in case there was an issue with Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s candidacy.

There was a pending court case questioning Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Sri Lankan citizenship. After the Court determination cleared his candidacy Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa clarified they will not be handing over nominations for Chamal Rajapaksa.

MPs Basheer Segu Dawood, Gunapala Tissakuttiarachchi and Maheepala Herath, and Jayantha Liyanage of the Sinhaladeepa Jathika Peramuna also abstained from handing over nominations. Nagananda Kodituwakku who was a no-show at the nomination day claimed that he was misled by the party that should have backed his nomination and instead sold the rights to another candidate.

The attorney–at-law raised millions of rupees in donations to contest the election representing the professionals. He was stopped by an NEC officer on duty outside the Secretariat when he tried to make his way through to lodge a complaint.

He was asked to email the complaint and the officer added that those who have fulfilled the criteria to hand in objections to the nominated candidates have already been accommodated inside. Two objections were handed over against M.K. Shivajilingam and A.L.A.M. Hisbullah during the stipulated time, but NEC rejected them as they were not in compliance with Elections Law.

At the end of the ‘objections’ Election Commission Chairman announced that the Presidential election will be held as scheduled on November 16.