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Sri Lanka may face a snap parliamentary poll post Rajapaksa's victory

By PTI
|

Colombo, Nov 18: Sri Lanka faces the prospect of a snap parliamentary poll after Gotabaya Rajapaksa took over as the country's president on Monday, sources in the ruling United National Party (UNP) said.

Rajapaksa was sworn in as the country's President at the Ruwanweli Seya precincts in the ancient north central town of Anuradhapura. The outgoing government's parliamentary group is to meet on Monday to discuss the way forward. "This would mean opting for a fresh parliamentary election," a source in the UNP said.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The next parliamentary poll is scheduled only after August 2020. However, after Rajapaksa's win in Saturday's presidential election, the position of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his government has become untenable, analysts noted.

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Constitutionally, a sitting prime minister cannot be removed unless he resigns. But Wickremesinghe is under pressure to quit. Rajapaksa, 70, of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) defeated Sajith Premadasa, 52, of the UNP by more than 13 lakh votes.

"As a party which honours democracy, we will discuss with parliamentary group, the Speaker and party leaders about parliamentary elections," a statement from Wickremesinghe's office said.

The UNP has been hit by the unexpected defeat and the scale of it. Several ministers offered resignations, including the minister of finance Mangala Samaraweera. Significantly, the resignations have come from the main backers of the candidature of Premadasa. They defied the party leadership to run a public campaign to force Wickremesinghe to name Premadasa as the party candidate.

"This is meaningless. They should have come to a collective decision to resign," Lakshman Kiriella, a senior minister said.

Since his defeat, Premadasa resigned from his party position as deputy leader and has even hinted he may quit politics altogether. Rajapaksa's political party sources said that government has no moral right now to continue in office after such a loss.

"It is only logical that we face a new election to appoint a fresh parliament in line with the big mandate on Saturday," a SLPP spokesman said.

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To declare a snap poll, parliament will have to pass a resolution with two-third support. With the UNP now in crisis and the Rajapaksa camp which is buoyant after presidential election win, a resolution for dissolution appears a likelihood, analysts noted.

A snap poll at this stage, rather than later would strengthen Rajapaksa's hold on power with a clear working majority, they said. President Rajapaksa can dismiss the parliament to order fresh polls after February next year which will be ahead of the scheduled end of term in August, they said.

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