Colombo: Sri Lanka's two key political parties representing the minority Muslims and Tamils have delayed announcing their support for any of the two candidates in the upcoming presidential poll early next month.
Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa is seeking a record third-term in the presidential poll scheduled for January 8. He will be challenged by the unity candidate of the opposition parties - Maithripala Sirisen.
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress' (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem, Minister of Justice in Rajapaksa's ruling coalition, said yesterday that the party would take time before announcing their support for any of the candidates.
"It is a very difficult decision to make. I pray for the support of the almighty god in making the correct decision," Hakeem told a gathering in the central town of Kandy.
"We have seen the manifesto of the opposition unity candidate Sirisena. The government manifesto is yet to be released," he said.
The SLMC, the main political party for the 8 per cent minority Muslims, has been worried over the perceived government support for the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), an anti-Muslim extremist Buddhist group.
The group has been blamed for the anti-Muslim violence last June that caused damage to the Muslim property and displaced thousands of Muslims.
The main Tamil party - Tamil National Alliance (TNA) - has also delayed its decision to support any of the candidates.
The TNA held a conference in the northern town of Vavuniya yesterday, attended by the elected representatives of the north and east provinces.
"We have decided to let the TNA leadership decide on which party to support," P Sathyalingam, a TNA minister in the northern provincial council said.
"The decision will be announced later this week after the return of the TNA leader R Sampanthan from India," he said.
Sathyalingam, however, said they have resolved that the Tamil minority must vote in the elections.
The boycott of 2005 presidential poll by Tamil voters has resulted in a narrow victory for Rajapaksa over his main rival Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Another fringe Muslim party in the ruling alliance, All Ceylon People's Congress led by the Commerce Minister Rishath Bathiyutheen, has also delayed its decision.
Bathiyutheen said the party was consulting its electorate before making a decision one way or the other.
The presidential election will take place on January 8 as Rajapaksa called the election two years ahead of schedule in an apparent attempt to seek fresh mandate before his party's popularity tumbles further, after dropping over 21 per cent in September local elections.