Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has called early elections as he tries to extend his decade-long rule.

Rajapaksa came to power after narrowly winning the 2005 presidential election, and increased his majority in 2010 after being credited with ending the decades-long separatist war against the Tamil Tigers.

But Sri Lanka's youngest ever member of parliament has seen his popularity fade.

In September, Rajapaksa's United People's Freedom Alliance suffered its worst performance in local elections since he took office.

Opponents accuse him of changing the constitution so he can hang on to power, and creating a family dynasty.

Sri Lanka has enjoyed South Asia’s fastest economic growth since the defeat of Tamil separatists, while Rajapaksa has cut fuel and electricity prices, and raised state wages and pensions.

So can Rajapaksa's successes propel him to an unprecedented third term in office?

Or is calling snap elections an act of desperation for a man whose time is running out?

Presenter: Jane Dutton


Harsha de Silva - member of parliament and economic spokesman for the opposition United National Party.

Suren Surendiran - spokesman and director of Strategic Initiative for the Global Tamil Forum.

Rajiva Wijesinha - member of parliament and adviser to President Rajapaksa on reconciliation.

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Source: Al Jazeera