In his letter, which President Sirisena had sent in his capacity as Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), he has noted that there were several seniors in the SLFP who deserved the prime ministerial position in the event of a UPFA win.
With no exit polls available, first trends were expected from counting overnight and final results due on Tuesday.
Sri Lankans began voting in parliamentary elections Monday, with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa eyeing a comeback as prime minister.
If no party wins an outright majority, Wickremesinghe will find it easier to find allies among Tamil and Muslim parties, whereas Rajapaksa’s polarizing personality will make it harder for him to build support.
And although Sirisena has threatened to invoke his executive powers to prevent Rajapakse from becoming prime minister, his combative predecessor is hoping that a strong showing will force the president to back down.
Voting has closed in Sri Lanka’s general election, a poll widely regarded as a referendum on the political future of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The main Tamil party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), in their manifesto, has outlined a federal solution to end the country’s ethnic impasse.
Around 15 million people were eligible to cast their votes at over 12,000 polling centres. He was ousted seven months ago from the top job, but now wants to return as the country’s prime minister.
“I will start from where I left off in January”, said Rajapaksa who runs from the Sinhala Buddhist-majority rural Kurunegala district in the northwest having shifted from his home base in the deep south.
Although Sirisena is now UPFA leader, his reluctant agreement to Rajapakse’s candidacy highlighted his shaky hold on the party.
Polls opened at 7am local time (01:30 GMT) and will close at 14pm.
“This was made possible because of the January 08 revolution and we of the United National Front as a contesting group representing a cross section of political parties and civil society and contesting as the UNP is confident of victory”, he said.
“Ranil (Wickremesinghe) is not a thief unlike Mahinda (Rajapakse)”, said N. Jayasekera, a taxi driver in Colombo, after he voted for the UNP. Rajapaksa’s party says it can bolster growth by restarting stalled investment projects.
Even after Mr Sirisena’s stunning victory in presidential elections on January 8, he has moved only belatedly to assert his control over the UNFP and to block the path to the premiership of his erstwhile ally and party rival Mr Rajapaksa.