Tue, 19 Jul 2022 10:13 AM IST | Source: REUTERS
Sri Lanka opposition leader Sajith Premadasa withdrew on Tuesday from the race to become president of the island nation, in order to support a rival candidate.
"For the greater good of my country that I love and the people I cherish, I hereby withdraw my candidacy for the position of president," Premadasa said on Twitter.
His party and "our alliance and our opposition partners will work hard towards making" Dullas Alahapperuma the winner, he added.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's parliament met on Saturday to begin the process of electing a new president after it accepted ousted president Gotabaya Rajapaksa's resignation on Friday.
Rajapaksa flew to the Maldives and then Singapore after hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters came out onto the streets of Colombo a week ago and occupied his official residence and offices.
Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, an ally of Rajapaksa who is the sole representative of his party in parliament, has been sworn in as acting president until then.
Wickremesinghe is one of the top contenders to take on the role full-time but protesters also want him gone, leading to the prospect of further unrest should he be elected.
The winning candidate must secure a simple majority within parliament, but also gain the confidence of hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans who have participated in the protest movement - known as the "Aragalaya", or "struggle" in Sinhala - that led to Rajapaksa's ouster.
Sri Lanka's economy is likely to contract by more than 6% this year as political instability and social unrest affect discussions on financial relief with the IMF, the governor of the country's central bank told The Wall Street Journal.
Street protests over Sri Lanka's economic meltdown simmered for months before boiling over on July 9, with protesters blaming the Rajapaksa family and allies for runaway inflation, shortages of basic goods, and corruption.
The Rajapaksa family had dominated politics in Sri Lanka for years and Basil Rajapaska, brother of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, resigned as finance minister in April as street protests surged and quit his seat in parliament in June.
Days-long fuel queues have become the norm in the island nation of 22 million, while foreign exchange reserves have dwindled to close to zero and headline inflation hit 54.6% last month.