Colombo | Sri Lanka’s political crisis deepened Friday as President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved Parliament and announced snap polls on January 5 after it became evident that he did not have enough support in the House for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed by him under controversial circumstances.
Sirisena signed a gazette notification to dissolve the nation’s parliament with effect from Friday midnight, in another surprise move that comes after two weeks of political and constitutional turmoil.
According to the gazette notice, nominations to contest the snap election would be taken between November 19 and 26. The election will be held January 5 and the new parliament would be convened on January 17.
Sirisena issued a gazette noticing that parliament stands dissolved some 21 months ahead of its schedule in August 2020, amid a worsening constitutional crisis triggered by the surprise sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The dissolution comes hours after a close aide of the President said Sirisena had decided that there will be no snap elections or a national referendum to end the current political and constitutional crises in Sri Lanka. Analysts said tonight’s dissolution was again unconstitutional in terms of the four and a half year term rule in the 19th amendment.
“We vehemently reject the dissolution of parliament. He has robbed the people of their rights”, Wickremesinghe led United National Party (UNP) said in a statement. Sirisena signed an official notification dismissing the 225-member assembly well ahead of its August 2020 term expiry, state television reported. Sri Lanka was plunged into a political crisis after Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and replaced him with his former rival Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Wickremesinghe, who dubbed the move as a “constitutional coup”, has refused to vacate his official residence, saying he is the lawful prime minister and that the president has no constitutional right to replace him. His request for a floor test to prove his majority in the House has been turned down. He cited the 19th amendment to the Constitution in which the president has been barred from sacking a prime minister or dissolving parliament before the expiry of its four and a half years term.
After Wickremesinghe’s sacking, Sirisena suspended parliament until November 16. It was to allow Rajapaksa to muster the 113 seats required to prove his majority. Sirisena had earlier claimed at a public rally that he has the support of 113 parliamentarians in the House to prove the premiership of Rajapaksa. Sri Lankan strongman and former president Rajapaksa, however, remains short of the ‘magic number’ 113 required to prove his majority in Parliament, his spokesman acknowledged Friday.
Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Monday slammed Sirisena’s “unconstitutional and undemocratic” actions to sack Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and suspend Parliament, saying he will not recognise Rajapaksa as the new premier unless he wins a floor test. The assembly speaker wants the floor test to take place on November 14.
The sudden constitutional crisis came amid growing tensions between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe on several policy matters and the President has been critical of the Prime Minister and his policies, especially on economy and security.