Sri Lanka leader gains ground with defections

AP News
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Posted: Dec 11, 2014 4:34 AM
Sri Lanka leader gains ground with defections

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa regained momentum in his bid for a third term with another leading politician abandoning the opposition to join his campaign on Thursday.

Udaya Gammanpila, a top official from the Buddhist nationalist National Heritage Party, defected from the opposition to become the third leading politician to support Rajapaksa in the Jan. 8 election.

Rajapaksa faces his former health minister and ruling party No. 2 Maithripala Sirisena. Sirisena led a revolt in Rajapaksa's ruling coalition, taking with him 11 ministers and lawmakers.

Now it seems Rajapaksa has managed to reverse some of the damage.

The two others who joined him Monday included Tissa Attanayake, general secretary of the main opposition United National Party, and Jayantha Ketagoda, deputy leader of the Democratic Party. The Democrats are led by a popular former army general who challenged Rajapaksa in the 2010 election.

Rajapaksa called the elections two years early to seek a fresh mandate amid accusations of corruption, nepotism and shrinking democratic space.

His administration also faces a U.N. inquiry into alleged war crimes in the final months of a quarter-century civil war between government troops and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.