POLONNARUWA, Sri Lanka (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s opposition parties formally launched their bid Sunday to topple long-serving President Mahinda Rajapakse at January elections, with prayers and public meetings in Polonnaruwa.
Main opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena, 63, who quit as health minister last week from Rajapakse’s government, was expected to address a rally later Sunday in Polonnaruwa, in the heart of the country’s “rice bowl”.
“Maithripala Sirisena represents the boiling resentment within the government of the Rajapakse family rule,” said former fisheries minister Rajitha Senaratne, one of 11 members of Rajapakse’s government to quit and support Sirisena in recent weeks.
Sirisena and other opposition figures were receiving Buddhist blessings at a temple and holding public meetings ahead of the rally in Polonnaruwa, which has been decked out in flags bearing their parties’ colours.
Presidential elections are set for January 8, with Rajapakse seeking a record third term – a move that was only made possible after he pushed through changes to the constitution.