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Voting begins for Sri Lanka Presidential election

Sri Lanka's parliament begins voting to elect new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled abroad leaving citizens in a dire economic crisis. (AP)

The Parliament will choose between three candidates for the Sri Lanka Presidential election, hoping the new leader will be able to pull the island out of its worst economic and political crisis since independence in 1948.

The three main contenders are acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, former journalist Dallas Alahapperuma, and Anura Kumara Dissanayaka, the leader of the leftist Janatha Vimukti Peramuna party.

For the first time in 44 years, Sri Lanka's Parliament will directly elect a President in a triangular contest to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa who fled away after his palace was stormed by angry protestors for mismanaging the economy.

Never in the history of the presidency since 1978, Sri Lanka's Parliament had voted to elect a president. Presidential elections in 1982, 1988, 1994, 1999, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2019 had elected them by popular vote.

The only time when Sri Lanka's presidency became vacant mid-term was in 1993 when president Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated. DB Wijetunga was unanimously endorsed by Parliament to run the balance of Premadasa’s term.

A candidate receiving more than one-third of the valid votes cast will be declared elected as the Sri Lanka's President today. If no candidate reaches the mark, the one with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated from the competition, and the preferences of lawmakers taken into account to eventually arrive at a winter.

The new president will serve the remaining tenure of Rajapaksa till November 2024.

Ranil Wickremesinghe who is a six-time prime minister, became acting president last week after Rajapaksa fled to Singapore when protesters seized his official residence and office. They also burned down Wickremesinghe's private home and stormed his office, but failed to oust him. So a win for Wickremesinghe, who is opposed by many ordinary Sri Lankans, could lead to more demonstrations by people furious with the ruling elite after months of crippling shortages of fuel, food, and medicines.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition Sajith Premadasa on Tuesday withdrew his candidature for Sri Lankan Presidential race and appealed Indian to keep supporting the island nation to come out of the “disaster".

“For the greater good of my country that I love and the people I cherish I hereby withdraw my candidacy for the position of President. Samagi Jana Balawegaya and our alliance and our opposition partners will work hard towards making Dullas Alahaperuma victorious," Premadasa tweeted.

He further said, "Irrespective of who becomes the President of Sri Lanka tomorrow it is my humble and earnest request to Hon. PM Shri@narendramodi, to all the political parties of India and to the people of India to keep helping mother Lanka and it’s people to come out of this disaster."

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