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JVP announces Dissanayake as presidential candidate

The leftist party offers a third alternative to Sri Lankan voters

Sri Lanka’s leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) or the People’s Liberation Front on Sunday said it would field party leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake as presidential candidate, effectively offering a third option to Sri Lankan voters in the polls scheduled later this year.

The announcement comes a week after the Rajapaksa camp named former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa its candidate contesting from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Front). Amid much tension among different factions within, the incumbent United National Party (UNP)-led alliance is yet to name its candidate.

Mr. Dissanayake enters the fray through the JVP-led ‘National People’s Power’ alliance, challenging two mainstream political camps, and promising an alternative. While the JVP has not electorally threatened mainstream parties — the UNP, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and SLPP — in recent national or local elections, it has remained a significant voice of dissent in the legislature, frequently taking on the big parties on allegations of corruption and nepotism.

During the nearly two-month political crisis last year, the six JVP MPs proved a crucial block in the Parliament. Along with the Tamil National Alliance legislators, they resisted the illegal power grab by the Rajapaksas. Mr. Dissanayake’s speeches, hailed by many as powerful and persuasive, drew wide attention at that time.

The JVP’s move to field its own candidate comes after nearly two decades when it mostly extended conditional support to other candidates. A huge crowd gathered at Galle Face Green adjoining Colombo’s sea front on Sunday as the party named its 50-year-old leader as candidate, now the youngest in the fray.

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