TNA believes that Mahinda Rajapaksa failed to heal the island’s long-standing ethnic conflict despite ending 25 years of civil war, said party leader R. Sampanthan.

Sri Lanka’s main Tamil political party said on Tuesday that it will support an opposition candidate in January’s presidential election in the latest blow to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid for a third term in office.

Tamil National Alliance leader R. Sampanthan said his party will back Maithripala Sirisena, who defected from the Rajapaksa government last month, because it believes Mr. Rajapaksa failed to heal the island’s long-standing ethnic conflict despite ending 25 years of civil war in 2009.

“We are inclined to the view based particularly on the performance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the past, that we would rather repose our faith in the joint opposition candidate Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, rather than expect what has not happened in the past 10 years to happen hereafter,” Mr. Sampanthan said.

Mr. Rajapaksa led a military campaign to defeat the Tamil Tiger rebels, ending a long campaign for an independent state by Sri Lanka’s ethnic minority Tamils. However, he is accused of reneging on promises to share power in the northern and eastern Provinces, and falling behind on rehabilitation efforts for war-affected Tamils.

Besides the defection of Mr. Sirisena, Sri Lanka’s largest Muslim political party announced on Sunday that it was also leaving Mr. Rajapaksa’s camp to support the opposition candidate in the election. More than 20 lawmakers and ministers have defected to the opposition.

The Tamil party said it was concerned with what it said was the country’s “inexorable move toward dictatorship” under the Rajapaksa administration, with the country’s executive presidential system becoming the repository of all powers.

“The removal of the two-term limitation on the office of the president was clearly intended to perpetuate this dictatorship and authoritarianism,” the TNA said in a statement.