Sri Lanka's Cabinet Minister of Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs and deputy leader of the ruling United National Party Sajith Premadasa looks on at the party office after he was nominated as a presidential candidate, in Colombo on September 26. Photo: AFP / Ishara S. Kodikara

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday gave up his bid to become president in November’s elections, conceding his party’s candidacy to his deputy, Sajith Premadasa.

Premadasa is the son of former president Ranasinghe Premadasa who was assassinated by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels in 1993.

His main rival in the November 16 vote will likely be Gotabaya Rajapakse, the controversial younger brother of Sri Lanka’s former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.

Gotabaya Rajapakse, 70, is considered a strong contender even though he faces corruption cases in Sri Lanka and two civil actions in the United States. The US cases are over the murder of a newspaper editor and torture of Tamil rebel suspects when he was a top defense ministry official during his brother’s rule.

It is not clear if incumbent Maithripala Sirisena will seek a second term. His popularity has fallen since a political crisis in late 2018 – and, particularly, following Islamic militant attacks in April that killed at least 258 people.


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