The political crisis in Sri Lanka deepened Friday after President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved Parliament, paving the way for early general elections in the country. According to a notification, general elections will be held on January 5 and the new Parliament will meet on January 17.
The dissolution of Parliament comes days after Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked as Prime Minister and replaced by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. On Friday, the strength of Sirisena and Rajapaksa’s coalition in Parliament stood at 106, seven short of the simple majority mark. Rajapaksa was to prove his strength on the floor of the House on November 14.
The move to dissolve parliament came hours after Sirisena’s party acknowledged that Rajapakse was eight MPs short of a majority needed to end the power struggle. Sirisena signed a decree dismissing the island’s 225-member assembly and scheduled parliamentary elections for January 5, nearly two years ahead of schedule.
There was no immediate comment from Wickremesinghe, but his United National Party (UNP) said it will challenge Sirisena’s sacking of the legislature.”This dissolution by the President is illegal and goes against the constitution,” the UNP said on Twitter. “We will be fighting this to ensure that democracy reigns supreme in the country.”
“He has robbed the people of their rights and the democracy that we have enjoyed,” the UNP said.
Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) admitted ahead of the president’s stunning announcement that they had failed to secure enough cross-over MPs to win a confidence vote in the House.
By avoiding a test of his majority on the floor of the House, Rajapakse will remain caretaker prime minister until elections are concluded and a new parliament meets on January 17.
Before signing the order sacking the parliament with effect from Friday midnight, Sirisena also inducted more ministers into his cabinet.