Sri Lanka is set to undergo another period of political turmoil as the country faces a constitutional crisis. The growing tensions and ideological differences within the ruling coalition between the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) came to the fore on October 26th, when the president, Maithripala Sirisena (who is also the leader of the SLFP), announced the sacking of the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe of the UNP.
He also announced the appointment of the former president and leader of the opposition Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the new prime minister.
Mr Wickremesinghe has dismissed the president’s move as unconstitutional and insisted that he is still the prime minister as he commands a parliamentary majority. The UNP officially holds 106 seats in the 225-seat parliament, only seven short of a simple majority, against a combined tally of 95 seats for the SLFP and the SLPP.
However, a day after the October 26th announcement, Mr Sirisena suspended parliament until November 16th, denying Mr Wickremesinghe the chance to prove that he still commands a majority.
The Economist Intelligence Unit believes that Mr Sirisena’s move to dissolve parliament is unconstitutional, as the president does not have the power to do so until four and a half years of its term have passed unless the move is supported by a two-thirds majority in the legislature.