Acting President Wickremesinghe has the backing of Rajapaksas' SLPP, largest bloc in the parliament.
Sri Lanka is voting to elect a new president as it reels under a deepening economic crisis and its 22 million people suffer due to a shortage of basic supplies, including food and fuel. The election is being held in the wake of the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has been accused of mismanaging the island nation's economy.
Here is a look at the three candidates in the race for the top post
- Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, 73, has the backing of Rajapaksas' SLPP, the largest bloc in the 225-member parliament. An opposition MP said Wickremesinghe's hardline stance against demonstrators was going down well with MPs who had been at the receiving end of mob violence, and most SLPP legislators would side with him. Observers believe that if Wickremesinghe wins, he will crack down hard on the demonstrators, who have accused him of protecting the Rajapaksas' interests.
- Wickremesinghe's main opponent will be SLPP dissident and former education minister Dullas Alahapperuma, a former journalist supported by the opposition. If he wins, the 63-year-old is expected to name opposition leader Sajith Premadasa as prime minister. Premadasa withdrew his candidature and said he is supporting Alahapperuma. Analysts say that the Opposition is leaving no stone unturned to keep Wickeremesinghe away from holding on to power. This is why Premadasa withdraw his candidacy, they say.
- The third candidate is Anura Dissanayake, 53, leader of the leftist People's Liberation Front, whose coalition has three parliamentary seats. He has earlier served as the country's cabinet minister for agriculture, livestock, lands and irrigation.
(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)