Sajith Premadasa Chosen as UNP Presidential Candidate Because Party Circles Felt He was “The Only Candidate Who Can Beat Gota”.

By Meera Srinivasan

United National Party (UNP) deputy leader and Cabinet Minister Sajith Premadasa will run for President, Sri Lanka’s ruling party announced on Thursday, ending weeks of uncertainty and apparent infighting over candidacy.

Mr. Premadasa, 52, is the son of late President Ranasinghe Premadasa. In the November 16 election, he will face Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former Defence Secretary and brother of Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa, from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, and Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who leads the leftist Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).

The UNP’s working committee on Thursday unanimously endorsed Mr. Premadasa, nominated by party leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The development follows an internal struggle among supporters of three contenders — Mr. Wickremesinghe, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Mr. Premadasa. With the party grassroots throwing its weight behind Mr. Premadasa, he emerged the final choice, party sources said, adding that he was the “only candidate who can beat Gota”.

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