A record 35 candidates will contest the upcoming presidential polls scheduled to be held on 16 November to elect the seventh executive president of Sri Lanka.
The highest number of candidates for a presidential election prior to this was in 2010, with 22 hopefuls securing nomination. In 2015, that number dropped to 19. The lowest ever was in 1988, with just three contenders: Ranasinghe Premadasa, Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Ossie Abeyagoonasekera.
Earlier this morning, the Election Commission accepted nominations for 35 out of the 41 would-be candidates who had made cash deposits by Saturday (5 Oct).
All but six candidates had submitted their nomination papers at the Sarana Mawatha premises of the Election Commission by 11am today. The candidates who bowed out of the race were Kumara Welgama, Chamal Rajapaksa, Sirithunga Jayasuriya, Jayantha Liyanage, Maheepala Herath and Basheer Segu Dawood.
Two objections filed against the nominations were rejected by the Commission, making way for all 35 remaining candidates to formally enter the fray.
Out of the 35 candidates, 20 represent registered political parties or alliances, while the remaining 15 will run as independent candidates.
This year’s presidential election is predominantly a race between men, with activist Dr. Ajantha Perera from the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka being the only female candidate. Two Buddhist monks are also among the nominees: Battaramulle Seelarathana Thero of the Jana Satha Peramuna and independent candidate Aparekke Punnananda Thero.
Five candidates representing minority communities have also come forward. Namely, Subramaniam Guratnam of Our National Front and independent candidates Illias Idroos Mohamed, former Jaffna District parliamentarian M. K. Sivajalingam, Ahmed Hassan Mohamed Alavi and former Eastern Province Governor M. L. A. M. Hizbullah.
Speaking at the nominations handover, Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya urged all candidates to conduct themselves with propriety on the campaign trail and to refrain from engaging in any illegal promotional activity. He then requested all print and electronic media organisations to actively discourage such activity, with a special appeal to the latter to not abuse the airwaves the public has temporarily rented out to them.
Deshapriya also requested all Sri Lankans, including those living abroad, to refrain from posting or sharing fake news or hate speech on social media.