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Sri Lanka - presidential election

Twenty-two candidates for Lanka President

Article published on the 2009-12-16 Latest update 2009-12-18 09:10 TU

Retired general Sarath Fonseka at a meeting of members of the opposition United National Party's trade union in Colombo(Photo: Reuters)

Retired general Sarath Fonseka at a meeting of members of the opposition United National Party's trade union in Colombo
(Photo: Reuters)

Twenty-two candidates have placed deposits to stand in Sri Lanka's presidential election, officials announced Wednesday after the deadline for registration expired. A bitter polemic between the incumbent and the former army boss looks set to dominate the campaign.

Eighteen political parties are to stand candidates, while five independents will also be on the ballot paper, according to the Department of Elections.

Among the candidates are several left-wingers, an independent linked to the Tamil National Alliance coalition and a representative of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

But two candidates have already dominated the headlines - former army chief Sarath Fonseka and incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse, who is backed by the opposition United National Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, which used to have ministers in Rajapakse's government.

Fonseka quit the military in November after accusing the government of sidelining him and falsely claiming that he was plotting a coup.

On Saturday Fonseka claimed that surrendering Tamil Tiger rebels were killed in cold blood, on the orders of the President's brother, Gotabhaya, who is Defence Minister.

The charges arise from this year's defeat of the armed separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has led to many accusations of war crimes.

The Lankasri website on Wednesday published photos purporting to show that Dwaraka, the daughter of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, was among those killed while trying to surrender.

And the London Times has published an expert's report which it claims disproves government claims that a video of soldiers shooting prisoners was a fake.

Rajapakse called the election two years ahead of the end of his mandate to take advantage of the political effects of the victory over the LTTE.

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