Sri Lanka to hold early presidential polls: minister

November 23, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka will hold early presidential elections within months, media minister Anura Yapa told reporters on Monday, after government forces defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels six months ago. However former army general Sarath Fonseka, who is widely credited with the military strategy that secured victory in May, is expected to stand against Rajapakse. President Mahinda Rajapakse would shortly announce the exact date of the vote, the minister said, with local press reports predicting January 23 as polling day.

“This morning the president met with all party leaders (of the ruling People’s Alliance coalition) and decided that the president election will be held soon,” Yapa said.

He said Rajapakse wanted a fresh mandate, despite his six-year term not ending until November 2012.

Sri Lanka’s constitution allows the president to call a snap poll after completing four years in office.

The government had been keen to hold early elections to benefit from the Tamil separatists’ defeat, which finally ended decades of bloody ethnic conflict on the island.