A group of UNP front-liners have planned to pressurise the newly formed United National Front (UNF) leadership to field UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the common Presidential candidate after making arrangements for General Sarath Fonseka also to contest on the ticket of another party, UNP sources revealed.
The main reason for this surprise move, according to these sources is the belief that it would be easier to defeat President Mahinda Rajapaksa by splitting the Sinhala vote in a three-cornered fight rather than in a straight contest. This new move is on the assumption that the Presidential poll will be held in January next year as widely expected, they added.
The UNP pressure group is looking into the possibility whether the UNF could field two candidates. “If there are legal snags in the way of fielding two candidates under the same party banner, we may have to field General Fonseka under the symbol of another party,” they said
The UNP pressure group advocating the idea of fielding both Wickremesinghe and General Fonseka as opposition candidates will first seek the approval of the party’s Working Committee for the proposal.
Another reason for the new move is the apprehension that has gained ground among the senior UNP members that General Fonseka could continue in office regardless of his obligations to sponsors in the event of his being elected, leaving all the opposition parties in the lurch, another senior UNP member said.
“Coming down to brass tacks, it is quite obvious that General Fonseka will not be able to muster the vital Tamil and Muslim votes particularly in the North and East. But, Ranil can. He is also assured of the stable UNP vote base. He can easily win if General Fonseka is also in the running, because he can split the Sinhala Buddhist vote,” he explained.