Sri Lankan president eyes new political dynasty

Chandi Dharmaratne

April 7, 2010 (AFP) – South Asia is no stranger to political dynasties, and Thursday’s parliamentary polls in Sri Lanka could mark President Mahinda Rajapakse’s first step in securing a legacy for his own “first family”. Rajapakse, 64, has campaigned for his eldest son, Namal, who is contesting the election in the family’s home constituency of Hambantota in the island’s southern Sinhalese heartland.

Namal, who will be 24 on Sunday, has no qualms about promoting himself as an ideological successor to his father, whose personal popularity following victory over Tamil rebels last year is expected to ensure a resounding poll win for his ruling Freedom Alliance party.

“I want to protect for future generations the freedom won by my father,” Namal says on his website, which notes that he hails from “a notable political family.”

The president rounded off campaigning on Monday by addressing a rally for Namal, and images of the smiling father-son duo have been prominent in local newspapers and television.

In the past five years, Namal, the eldest of three sons, has been groomed for political leadership, and was made the head of a national youth movement which has a strong network in rural areas.