Published: Sat, November 10, 2018

Sri Lanka's president dissolves Parliament, calls for an election

Sri Lanka's president dissolves Parliament, calls for an election

New elections are likely to be held in early January, almost two years earlier than originally planned, a government minister told the AFP news agency.

The US State Department tweeted that it is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, "further deepening the political crisis".

"We will definitely challenge this in the Supreme Court, that the president is violating the constitution", said Harsha De Silva, who was state minister of economic affairs under Wickremesinghe's government.

The former Prime Minister-led United National Party (UNP) says the dissolution of Parliament by the President Maithripala Sirisena today almost two years before its term expires is illegal and against the constitution.

Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena waves to supporters at a rally on November 5, 2018, in Colombo.

Sirisena sparked the two week-old drama last month by sacking Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and naming Mahinda Rajapaksa - the country's authoritarian president from 2005 until 2015 - as his replacement.

Under pressure from the United Nations, the USA and the European Union to allow a parliamentary vote, Sirisena agreed three times to lift the suspension but changed his mind each time.

Following the Parliament's dissolution on Friday, the United National Party - of which Ranil Wickremesinghe is the leader - vehemently rejected the move, and said that it was illegal.

"This dissolution by the President is illegal and goes against the constitution", the UNP said on Twitter. Sirisena has filled only 22 of 30 cabinet positions - purposefully keeping some jobs vacant to tempt legislators of Wickremesinghe's party to defect to Rajapakse's side.

The admission, which came despite Sirisena's earlier claim that he had the support of 113 legislators when he sacked Wickremesinghe, had fuelled speculation that he would go for snap elections.

The deposed leader, who has remained holed up in the prime ministerial residence since his abrupt dismissal on October 26, has demanded a parliamentary vote to prove his majority.

"The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr. Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament", said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director at New Delhi-based analyst group Atlantic Council's South Asia Center.

Sirisena has said he fired Wickremesinghe because the prime minister was trying to implement "a new, extreme liberal political concept by giving more priority for foreign policies and neglecting the local people's sentiment".

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