Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse has enlisted the help of two unlikely personalities in his bid to win a controversial third term in office.
Faced with a slew of defections to the main opposition and flagging popular support, Mr Rajapakse has invited Bollywood stars Salman Khan and Jacqueline Fernandez – a former Miss Sri Lanka – to join him on the campaign trail, according to local reports.
The actors were reportedly brought on board with the help of Mr Rajapakse’s parliamentarian son Namal Rajapakse.
Whilst it’s common for Bollywood personalities to lend their support for election campaigns in India, this is thought to be the first time that Indian celebrities have been brought in to support a campaign beyond Indian shores.
Local reports suggest that Khan and Fernandez – who together appeared in this year’s superhero blockbuster ‘Kick’ – are at the vanguard of a string of other Bollywood personalities who have been invited to Sri Lanka to campaign on behalf of Mr Rajapakse ahead of the 8 January poll.
The president called for the election two years ahead of schedule as Mr Rajapakse seeks a fresh mandate for his party following declining support for his administration.
The Sri Lankan leader has come under fire for seeking a third term in office having amended the constitution soon after the end of the country’s Civil War in 2009, allowing him, for all intents and purposes, to rule for life.
He has been criticized for widespread corruption and extending his family’s influence across all aspects of Sri Lankan life.
Mr Rajapakse’s younger brother Gotabhaya holds the Defence and Urban Development portfolios whilst eldest brother Chamal is the Speaker of Parliament.
Aside from being a parliamentarian Namal Rajapakse, along with brother Yoshitha, owns the country’s largest and most lucrative sports broadcast network while dozens of close and distant family relatives hold numerous positions across a variety of government departments.