(PM ELECT: Prime Minister-elect Ranil Wickremesinghe with wife Maithree in Colombo on August 19.)
ECONOMYNEXT, Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa whose prime ministerial dream was shattered after Monday’s election faced a new threat Wednesday with at least 14 of his supporters expected to defect.
A top United People’s Freedom Alliance source said several MPs elected from their party on Monday were already in talks with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister-elect Ranil Wickremesinghe to join the government.
“Many who marketed Rajapaksa to get into parliament are now trying to ditch him,,” a top UPFA source told EconomyNext. “We warned that this would happen, but a few managed to convince him to contest.”
The source said a small band of extremely loyal officials told Rajapaksa not to be taken in by Wimal Weerawansa and Dinesh Gunawardena who were trying to put forward Rajapaksa because they themselves would not have been able to win a seat on their own.
“We have also advised him to gracefully step down without taking oaths as an opposition backbencher,” the source said adding that Rajapaksa may not take their advise.
In a statement Wednesday, Rajapaksa congratulated Wickremesinghe over his victory and made it clear that he will go to parliament as a backbencher.
“I will continue to engage in politics in keeping with the people’s mandate (to be in the opposition) and I will function within parliament to safeguard the nation and the democratic system,” he said.
“I thank the voters who placed their confidence in our party despite the unprecedented obstacles that we had to face,” he said.
However, the 85-member European Union election monitors said the election had gone off well and congratulated election officials as well as those who were elected.
“We are happy to say that elections took place in a well-organised manner and we congratulate the new elected members of the parliament,” the EU mission said in a statement.