Sri Lanka's Rajapakse gets parliament elections nod

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's former leader Mahinda Rajapakse was on Monday formally accepted as a candidate to stand in upcoming parliamentary elections six months after losing a presidential vote, officials said.

Rajapakse, 69, entered the fray from the north-central district of Kurunegala after abandoning his home constituency of sparsely populated Hambantota in the island's deep south, officials said.

"The former president is topping the list of candidates from Kurunegala," an election official said. "He was not present, but another candidate submitted his nomination which was accepted."

He secured a ticket to represent his United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) for a seat in the 225-member assembly.

Some 15 million people are eligible to vote at the August 17 election held under a system of proportional representation.

Rajapakse received 47.58 percent of the vote in January elections that he lost to his former ally Maithripala Sirisena who was supported by the then opposition United National Party (UNP).

President Sirisena, who is actually a member of the UPFA, made the then opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe the prime minister of a minority government.

Wickremesinghe is the prime ministerial candidate from the UNP which has also secured the support of a broad coalition that backed Sirisena in January.

Rajapakse, an ethnic Sinhalese, remains popular among big sections of the island's largest community for overseeing the defeat of the Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009.

However, Sirisena's office announced earlier this month that he will not allow Rajapakse to be the UPFA's prime ministerial candidate.