The process of electing Parliament in Sri Lanka has entered its second phase with the closing of filing of nominations for the election scheduled for April 8.
As per the Elections Secretariat, 7,696 candidates from 24 political parties and hundreds of independent groups are in the fray.
The defeated opposition candidate in the January 26 presidential election, General (retired) Sarath Fonseka, is also in the battle.
A total of 1,40,88,500 voters will elect 196 of the 225 Members of Parliament while 29 will be elected from national lists of political parties. Parliament is scheduled to meet on April 22.
The opposition parties, which supported General (retired) Fonseka in the presidential election, are divided into two groups, giving an edge to the ruling combine led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
General (retired) Fonseka is leading an alliance floated by the JVP ignoring appeals from other opposition parties.
He is fighting for a seat from the Colombo parliamentary district.
The UNP is contesting on its own symbol and has managed to secure the support of several smaller opposition groups.
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and Minister Dullas Alahapperuma are on the national list of the UPFA. At least 18 political parties and 37 independent groups have filed nomination papers.
The election campaign of the UPFA kicked off on Saturday with religious observances in Anuradhapura attended by Mr. Rajapaksa.