Sri Lanka's Supreme Court rules in favour of presidential elections in 2005
Court's decision ends President Kumaratunga's hope of staying on.

Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has ruled that the next presidential election will be held no later than December 2005. Current President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who had appealed to the Court, thus lost her bid to stay in office till 2006.

The president was elected for the first time in 1994 for a six-year term, but sure of victory she called a new election in 1999, a year shy of the end of her mandate. At the end of her second mandate, she appealed to the Court to get her "lost" year back. 

However, "[a]ccording to the constitution, and the interpretations heard . . . I hold the President's second term in office commenced on 22 December 1999 and will end six years from that date," Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva said.

Justice Silva added that under the law presidents can only be elected to two terms. This means that Kumaratunga will not be able to run in the next election.

The two main rivals to succeed her are the current Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and opposition United National Party leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The latest surveys indicate that the electorate is evenly split between the two.