Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa to stand in August poll

Former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks to his supporters at his residence in Medamulana (01 July 2015) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Rajapaksa told his supporters on Wednesday that he was hoping to form the next government

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that he intends to re-enter politics and stand in parliamentary elections next month.

Mr Rajapaksa lost bitterly fought presidential elections to party rival Maithripala Sirisena in January.

Speaking in front of a large crowd of supporters in his home district, Mr Rajapaksa said he could not reject their clamour for him to stand.

But it is not clear which party the former president will represent.

Mr Sirisena, the new leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which Mr Rajapaksa led for 10 years prior to his downfall, has ruled out appointing him as candidate.

Analysis: Priyath Liyanage, BBC News

The faction loyal to Mahinda Rajapaksa in parliament is gradually starting to show its strength against the rainbow coalition led by Maithripala Sirisena which defeated him in January.

That could jeopardise the programme of reforms implemented by the new president which so far have included changes to the judiciary, more media freedom and the promotion of human rights.

The government's aim to introduce far-reaching constitutional changes and investigate corruption allegations against Mr Rajapaksa are by no means a foregone conclusion ahead of next month's elections.

At the moment President Sirisensa and his coalition partner Ranil Wickramasinghe are not in a strong legislative position. Prime Minister Wickramasinghe's United National Party only has around 40 seats out of the 225 in parliament.

To survive any no confidence vote either now or after the elections he is likely to need the support of various parties - including Sinhala nationalist groups, Tamil parties and the SLFP faction that backs Mr Sirisena.

The new president won the election pledging full-scale political reforms, but has faced resistance from lawmakers loyal to Mr Rajapaksa in implementing them.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The former president's decision to stand has been strongly criticised by his his opponents
Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Maithripala Sirisena (pictured) has ruled out allowing Mr Rajapaksa to stand as an SLFP candidate

Correspondents say that Mr Rajapaksa's decision to stand may harm Mr Sirisena's hopes for a new parliament sympathetic to his reform programme.

Mr Rajapaksa's decision to stand has been strongly criticised by some of his former party colleagues, and by opponents and human rights groups.

Tourism and Sports Minister Navin Dissanayake said that the people will put his name "into the dustbin of history".

In his speech on Wednesday in his home town of Medamulana, Mr Rajapaksa said that he and his supporters "will contest and look to form the next government".

His supporters introduced him as prime-minister-in-waiting.

Mr Rajapaksa did not say if he was aiming to become prime minister, instead choosing to invite "all political parties to join hands" with him for the 17 August vote.

The BBC's Azzam Ameen in Colombo says at least 80 of the SLFP's 127 MPs still appear loyal to Mr Rajapaksa. It remains to be seen how many voters will back him in the vote.

Mr Rajapaksa remains popular among the country's Sinhalese majority for his nationalism and for masterminding the defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009.

But he was criticised for an increasingly authoritarian style of government and alleged human rights abuses.

Related Topics

More on this story