Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his former health minister are among 19 people to hand in their nominations to contest a presidential election next month.

The papers from the 19 were handed in Monday to Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya.

Rajapaksa has called an election to seek an unprecedented third term, two years before his second term ends. His former health minister and party No. 2, Maithripala Sirisena, has become his main challenger and he is now being backed by the main opposition United National Party.

The election is Jan. 8.