Three candidates were on Tuesday nominated for the post of Sri Lankan president after Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country on July 13, News Wire reported.
Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, former Education minister Anura Kumara Dissanayake and former Information and Mass Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma were nominated during Parliament session. The presidential elections will be held on Wednesday.
Ahead of the polls, Sri Lanka on Monday declared a state of emergency. Under the emergency regulations, security forces are empowered to search any premises, arrest residents and seize weapons.
The presidential elections became necessary after Rajapaksa resigned from the post on July 14.
Widespread protests were held over the Rajapaksa government’s handling of the country’s worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.
Demonstrators had for months sought Rajapaksa’s resignation, accusing him of siphoning money and mismanaging the economy. While all members of his politically-powerful family were forced to resign due to public pressure, Rajapaksa had clung to power.
On Tuesday, the candidature of former education minister Alahapperuma was backed by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna leader Sajith Premadasa. Alahapperuma’s nomination was also supported by the main Opposition party’s MP GL Peiris, reported News Wire.
Wickremesinghe was nominated by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna MP Dinesh Gunawardena. His candidature was supported by MP Manusha Nanayakkara.
The third candidate, former Information and Mass Media Minister Dissanayake was nominated by the National People’s Power coalition MP Vijitha Herath. He was also supported by the party’s legislator Harini Amarasuriya.
The economic crisis in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has run out of foreign exchange reserves limiting essential imports of fuel, food and medicine. The island nation’s inflation rate touched 54.6% year-over-year in June while food inflation shot up to 80%.
As the crisis deepened in April, violent clashes erupted between supporters of Rajapaksa’s party and the anti-government demonstrators. In May, 10 people died in the clashes.
The economic meltdown led to Sri Lanka defaulting on its $51-billion foreign debt in April. The country is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package.
The United Nations has warned that more than a quarter of Sri Lanka’s people is at risk of food shortages. Sri Lanka Medical Council has stated that hospitals were running with minimum resources as the country imports more than 80% of its medical supplies. The top medical body also warned that it would not be able to handle any mass casualties due to the protests.