Speculation is rife in Sri Lankan political circles about who will be the Prime Minister following the United Peoples Freedom Alliance s landslide victory in the April 8 parliamentary elections.
Names which are doing the rounds in the media are Basil Rajapaksa, President Mahinda Rajapaksa s brother, chief advisor and long time campaign manager Maithripala Sirisena, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) general secretary Nimal Sripala de Silva, former leader of the House and health minister D M Jayaratne, senior SLFP leader and former minister and Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, former Prime Minister.
STRONG CONTENDER: Basil Rajapaksa is thought be the strongest contender. He had got the largest number of preferential votes in the elections (425,861).
He has been Mahinda Rajapaksa s election campaign manager for long. He is the President s brother, confidante and the most trusted agent. It is pointed out that Sri Lankan Presidents have always appointed the most trusted person as the Prime Minister Though the post of Prime Minister is not important in Sri Lanka (as all constitutional power is vested in the elected Executive President), it has great political potential . In the absence of a vice president, the Prime Minister is next only to the President in the constitutional pecking order and is a potential successor. If Rajapaksa has to have a trustworthy person as Prime Minister, Basil fills the bill admirably. However, Basil suffers from one drawback: He has never been a minister and he had entered parliament very recently.
LEADERS WITH BASE: Maithripala Sirisena is a senior SLFP leader with great ministerial experience.
He had also got the largest number of preferential votes in his electoral district of Polannaruwa (90,118). Former heath minister and leader of the House, Nimal Sripala de Silva, is a senior leader who had topped the party list in Badulla District bagging 141,990 preferential votes. However, there is always the danger that such leaders may harbour greater political ambitions and flaunt their electoral achievements to the discomfiture of the President.
SAFE BET: D M Jayaratne is a senior and non-controversial politician who poses no threat whatsoever to Rajapaksa. He also comes from the politically important Kandy district, which the President has to keep in good humour to prevent it from swinging back to the opposition United National Party.
However, despite the choices available, Rajapaksa may, at the end of the day, stick to the tried and tested Ratnasiri Wickramayanake who had played second fiddle perfectly, since he was appointed Prime Minister in 2005.