Sri Lanka’s ex-army chief gains poll edge with Tamil backing

January 6, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s former army chief received a boost to his presidential ambitions Wednesday when minority Tamil parties said they would back him against incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse in polls later this month. Fonseka and Rajapakse have been at loggerheads since the end of the conflict. Fonseka quit after accusing the government of sidelining him and falsely suspecting him of trying to stage a coup. A consortium of ethnic Tamil parties known as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) announced in parliament that they were asking their community to vote for Sarath Fonseka who is seen as the main challenger to President Rajapakse.

Both Fonseka and Rajapakse are members of the majority Sinhalese community and if their candidacies split the Sinhalese vote, then support from the island’s ethnic minorities, which usually vote en bloc, could tip the scales.

“We have decided that we shall not extend our support to president Mahinda Rajapakse,” TNA leader R. Sampanthan told reporters. “We have decided to support the common opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka.”

Both the main candidates have been trying to woo the minority vote, but Sampanthan said Fonseka had been the more “receptive” of the two.

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