Sri Lanka lawmakers give sweeping powers to President Rajapaksa

Colombo, Sept. 9 (ANI): Lawmakers in Sri Lanka MPs have approved proposals to let President Mahinda Rajapaksa seek an unlimited number of terms, even as critics said they could lead to the establishment of dictatorship in the island-nation.

The constitutional amendment also hugely boosts the president's powers.

Amid protest and counter-protest in the capital Colombo, Members of Parliament in the 225-member parliament voted for the proposals by 161 to 17 against.

The main opposition United National Party boycotted the vote, but many of its MPs voted with the government.

The lifting of the two-term presidential limit allows Rajapaksa to stand again in 2016, the BBC reports.he amendment also empowers him to appoint all the top judges and commissioners for elections, human rights and other affairs, unfettered by any legal veto.

During the debate, the defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka - now a prisoner of the state but able to go to parliament as an elected MP - expressed the fear that the constitutional change might pave the way to a military coup.ut a cluster of opposition members crossed to the government side, some even defecting to the governing party, for reasons that are unclear.

Sets of demonstrators rallied both in favour of the government's bill and against it, but there was no violence.

While President Rajapaksa was elated over the outcome of the vote, General (retired) Fonseka said it was "the last nail into the coffin of democracy". (ANI)

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