Published in www.crisisgroup.org website on Dec. 9 ::

Sri Lanka’s upcoming presidential election promises more competition than was initially anticipated. But with that comes a great risk of violence. Long-term stability and post-war reconciliation can only be achieved through a peaceful election resulting in a government committed to serving the interests of all Sri Lankans.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, Maithripala Sirisena, elections, Tamils, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, SLFP, Bodu Bala Sena, BBS, UNHCR

“The opposition’s attempt to reopen democratic space also brings with it risks of violence and instability … The tighter the race, the more violent it threatens to be”.

Alan Keenan, Crisis Group’s Sri Lanka Senior Analyst

Surprising many observers, Sri Lanka’s 8 January presidential election between incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa and his former ally Maithripala Sirisena looks set to be a close contest. Promising to abolish the executive presidency and revive parliamentary democracy, the opposition offers a different vision from that of the government, which is increasingly entrenched in power. In its latest briefing,Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election: Risks and Opportunities, the International Crisis Group examines the challenges facing Rajapaksa and the opposition, and how domestic and international actors can mitigate the risk of political instability.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:

“The opposition’s attempt to reopen democratic space also brings with it risks of violence and instability” says Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka Senior Analyst. “The tighter the race, the more violent it threatens to be”.

“Whoever wins in January, issues of devolution of power, accountability and reconciliation, and of the equal status of Tamils and Muslims in a Sinhala majority state, will remain contentious”, says says Jonathan Prentice, Chief Policy Officer and Acting Asia Program Director. “Navigating this terrain will require political skills and statesmanship by all parties, with the cooperation of Sri Lanka’s international partners”.

Source: http://goo.gl/ntfF1r