Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Sri Lankan opposition coalition splits

By Anbarasan Ethirajan
BBC News, Colombo

Sri Lankan opposition supporters
The split is the latest in a string of setbacks for the opposition

The Sri Lankan opposition coalition which contested the recent presidential poll has split after some parties said they were forming a new alliance.

A group of smaller parties have said they are uniting without the biggest group, the United National Party (UNP).

Senior opposition leader Vijitha Herath told the BBC that the coalition broke up after the UNP refused to contest the elections under a common symbol.

Parliamentary polls are due to be held on 8 April.

Analysts say the latest move is likely to strengthen President Mahinda Rajapaksa's coalition.

New alliance

The opposition coalition started to disintegrate soon after their candidate, Gen Sarath Fonseka, lost the presidential election by a huge margin last month.

Mr Herath, who is a leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party, told the BBC that the new political front, the Democratic National Alliance, will contest the elections under the leadership of Gen Fonseka, who is in military custody.

Gen Fonseka is accused of plotting to overthrow the government. But he denies the charges.

The new coalition will contest the election under the symbol of a trophy. The UNP will contest the poll under the symbol of an elephant.

Mr Herath said if Gen Fonseka was not released from detention soon, his wife Anoma Fonseka would lead their campaign.

He said they were also trying to bring more parties into the new alliance.

The Tamil political parties have already said they will not join any coalition for the parliamentary poll.

Analysts say the latest move by the opposition is likely to increase the prospects of the ruling coalition winning a two-thirds majority in the 225-member parliament.

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