Twelve political parties in Sri Lanka, led by the main opposition party United National Party (UNP), floated a new front on Tuesday with the explicit objective of combating the “corrupt and despotic Rajapaksa family regime” and switch over to Indian-style parliamentary democracy.

The formation assumes significance as President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to announce the dates for the general election due in April, possibly preceded by a presidential election, at a convention of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on November 15.

The general and the presidential elections were anticipated after the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), led by the Mr. Rajapaksa, secured an absolute majority in the Southern Provincial Council elections last month.

The new opposition political platform, the Eksath Jathika Peramuna or the United National Front (UNF), also assumes importance in the context of the debate on the possibility of Chief of Defence Staff Sarath Fonseka entering the presidential race as an opposition consensus candidate.

The majority of the opposition parties is of the view that given the popularity of General Fonseka as a war hero, he is the ideal candidate to take on Mr. Rajapaksa. The new grouping took birth at the Parliament house in a formal ceremony and included the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Democratic People’s Front and the splinter group of the ruling party led by the former Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera.

There was no immediate response from the ruling combine or the presidential managers to the development. At the launch ceremony of the new formation Mr. Samaraweera said: “Historians would record today’s event as a great milestone in Sri Lanka’s history.”

“We have formed the United National Front, in order to defeat the forces of the Rajapaksa regime, which managed during the past four years to drag the country in to a very dangerous precipice.”

Mr. Samaraweera said the group, led by the leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe, would provide equal representation for all communities in the island nation.“

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