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Wednesday, October 20, 1999 Published at 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK

World: South Asia

Presidential poll in Sri Lanka

President Kumaratunga: Going to the people

By Susannah Price in Colombo

The President of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Kumaratunga, has announced that a snap presidential election will be held in the next three months.

The government information department said the official proclamation had been released and a voting date would be issued shortly.

Analysts say the polling day could be anything from seven to 12 weeks' time.

The announcement by President Kumaratunga puts an end to months of speculation about the possibility of an early election.

The proclamation issued by the president said she intended to appeal to the people for a mandate to hold office for a further term.

However the exact polling date has not been announced. The Information Department said a schedule and a balloting date would be announced within the next three weeks and it seems likely the polls will be held in late December or early January.

There was no reference in the announcement to parliamentary elections which are due by August even though presidential polls do not have to be held until three months after that.

It was widely believed that President Kumaratunga who is seen as being personally more popular than her party, would hold presidential elections first in the hope they would boost her party's fortunes in general elections.

The leader of the main opposition United National Party, Ranil Wickremasinghe, said they were ready for polls and were already campaigning.

President Kumaratunga was elected in November 1994, promising to end the island's drawn out war against the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

Her records on efforts to bring about peace as well as the state of the economy, are likely to be the main issues during the upcoming campaign.

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