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Sri Lankan strongman eyes presidency in upcoming elections

Former leader Rajapaksa's brother vows security after Easter bombings

COLOMBO -- Sri Lanka's most influential political clan is eyeing a return to power by naming a hawkish former defense secretary as its candidate for presidential elections later this year, a move being billed in ultranationalist quarters as a timely return of a strongman to govern the strategically located Indian Ocean island.

The nomination of Gotabaya Rajapaksa by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, a party headed by his elder brother, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, ended months of speculation about who the Rajapaksa family would pick. The elder Rajapaksa, whose two terms spanning nearly 10 years was marked by his autocratic grip and his pro-China tilt, lost his bid for a third term in a surprising defeat in January 2015.

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