COLOMBO - Sri Lankan students and other groups planned to protest on Tuesday against Ranil Wickremesinghe's expected bid for president, as lawmakers gathered in parliament to finalise candidates for the role.

Six-time prime minister Wickremesinghe took over as acting president after a popular uprising amid a devastating economic crisis forced previous incumbent Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee to Singapore and resign. Demonstrators, angered by rocketing prices and shortages of food and fuel, want Wickremesinghe gone too.

The other candidates in the fray are Sajith Premadasa, leader of the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya party and the son of an assassinated president, and Dullas Alahapperuma, a senior ruling party lawmaker who served as the minister of mass media and as a cabinet spokesperson.

"I want the people of Sri Lanka to know that I will take the correct decision at the appropriate time to protect my motherland’s national interest and the rights of all my fellow Sri Lankan people," Premadasa said on Twitter, saying he was heading to parliament.

Political parties will nominate their candidates for president on Tuesday, with a vote by lawmakers on who will complete Rajapaksa's term, scheduled to end in 2024, due on Wednesday.

Hit hard by the pandemic and tax cuts by the Rajapaksa government, Sri Lanka is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since it won independence from Great Britain in 1948.

Inflation of over 50% and shortages of food, fuel and medicines have brought thousands onto the streets in months of protests that culminated in Rajapaksa's ouster.

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Uditha Jayasinghe Writing by Krishna Das)