In an act that smacked of political desperation after it became evident his party may not be able to show majority in the House, President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday dissolved Parliament with elections likely to be held on 5 January.
The Rajapaksa government had been installed by President Sirisena on October 26 after sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a widely criticized move.
But the Rajapaksa government could not muster the support of a minimum of 113 MPs in a House with a total strength of 225 members to be in power and defeat the No Confidence Motion filed earlier by the Joint Opposition led by Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). Only eight MPs from the UNP and the United National Front (UNF) crossed over since October 26.
Sirisena’s anti-democratic actions came just two weeks after he sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed former President Mahinda Rajapakse to replace him. Sirisena then prorogued the parliament for three weeks until November 16, later changing the date to November 14 following domestic and international criticism. The prorogation was a crude manoeuvre to give Rajapakse time to secure a governing majority in the 225-member parliament.
Sirisena’s dissolution of the parliament yesterday was announced a few hours after Rajapakse declared that he was still eight MPs short of a majority.
Avoiding a resolution to Sri Lanka’s political crisis through Parliament, President Maithripala Sirisena late on Friday dissolved the House. The move came just hours after his political front admitted to lacking the majority needed for its controversially installed Prime Minister to be declared legitimate.
Issuing an extraordinary gazette, Mr. Sirisena dismissed the 225-member assembly with effect from midnight, and called for a snap general election on January 5, 2019.
Earlier on Friday, Sri Lanka’s purported new government said it had “104 or 105” MPs in the 225-member House, in a public admission of lacking majority in the House. Addressing a press conference at the Prime Minister’s office — which Mr. Rajapaksa took over after his disputed appointment — spokesman of the Sirisena-Rajapaksa front Keheliya Rambukwella said, “We have about 105 now”, contradicting Mr. Sirisena’s claim last week of “having the majority”.
Mr. Rajapaksa, who sought early general election even while in opposition, said in a tweet: “As leaders, it is our responsibility and obligation to give the people the opportunity to voice their opinions on the future of #SriLanka.
A general election will truly establish the will of the people and make way for a stable country.” By Friday evening, President Sirisena had sworn in virtually the entire “new cabinet”, that included senior aides of Mr. Rajapaksa and himself in key Ministerial positions.
The move followed President Maithripala Sirisenato’s dismissal in late October of Sri Lanka’s prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and his naming as a replacement a popular former president who had been accused of human rights abuses, nepotism and excessively close ties to China during his tenure.
Mr. Wickremesinghe and many members of Parliament challenged the appointment of his successor, Mahinda Rajapaksa. No major foreign country, including the United States, has recognized the new government. They have urged Sri Lankan leaders to allow Parliament to choose between the two men.