Leaders of small parties as well as prominent politicians of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) unhappy with the decision to let former President Mahinda Rajapaksa contest on the SLFP ticket are reconsidering their political allegiances.
Accordingly, Patali Champika Ranawaka of the newly formed United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) (formerly the Jathika Hela Urumaya) who played a key role in President Maithripala Sirisena’s election campaign is discussing possible alliances ‘with all political parties not aligned with Mahinda Rajapaksa directly or indirectly,’ party spokesperson Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe told The Nation.
The Nation learns that these moves include discussions with the United National Party (UNP). A key bone of contention in these talks is the choice of party symbol. The UNFGG appears reluctant to contest under the ‘elephant symbol’ whereas the UNP is said to be opposed to contesting under a different symbol.
Meanwhile, staunch opponents of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Maithripala camp such as Duminda Dissanayake, Rajitha Senaratne M.K.D.S. Gunawardena and Nandimithra Ekanayake are reassessing their political positions. Dissanayake and Ekanayake have been placated with the post of party organizers for Kalawewa and Matale-Rattota respectively.
A source close to the core group of MPs who had earlier supported President Maithripala Sirisena said they expected about 10 former MPs to cross over to contest with the UNP. The source indicated that up to 36 former MPs may cross over if negotiations were successful, though including them all in nomination lists may prove another potential hurdle.
However, the UNP was keeping key nomination positions open in Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara while waiting for a final word from SLFP ministers who are in the Maithri camp.
Leader of the Democratic Party (DP), Sarath Fonseka, is also said to be having second thoughts about going it alone and is reported to be exploring the possibility of withdrawing his candidacy. Sources were indicating that the DP also was mulling the possibility of an alliance with the UNP.
However, when contacted, a spokesperson for the DP refuted talk of any alliance, stating there has been no such discussion with the UNP. Nominations for the Colombo and Gampaha districts have already been handed in. Nominations for all other districts except for Jaffna (where the party will not contest) will be handed in on July 13 (Monday), the spokesman further said.
All entities, regardless of ‘understandings’ reached with the UNP will have to revert to their particular parties for endorsement before any agreement is inked, ‘The Nation’ learns.