World Bulletin/News Desk
Sri Lankan Health Minister Mithripala Sirisena resigned on Friday and said he would run as an opposition candidate against President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a snap election in January.
The challenge from within his own ranks will be a blow for Rajapaksa, who is seeking an unprecedented third term and remains popular leader despite foreign criticism over his sweeping powers and human rights record.
"One family has taken control of the economy, power and the party," Sirisena said. "The country is moving towards a dictatorship."
Sirisena's defection from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which is headed by Rajapaksa, came a day after the president announced a poll in January despite a request from allies not to go for an early election.
Rajapaksa's fisheries minister and three other lawmakers also resigned from their positions, pledging support to Sirisena.
The main opposition United National Party (UNP) along with many Rajapaksa rivals have thrown their weight behind Sirisena as their common candidate for the presidency.
Rajapaksa, 69, came to power in 2005 and retained the presidency in 2010 on a wave of popularity after the military defeated Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009, ending a 26-year-old civil war on the Indian Ocean island state.
He has been tainted by accusations of nepotism, although he has responded by saying that any relatives in parliament are there because people elected them and not because he chose them.Last Mod: 21 Kasım 2014, 13:38