Sri Lanka's President calls for speedy elections to end the power struggle

Sri Lanka has plunged deeper into the crisis after President Maithripala Sirisena called for a quick election. The country faced two more months of political paralysis and two bitter rivals claiming to be in charge of its government.

In what opponents condemned as an illegal move, Sirisena dissolved the country's parliament on Friday in a bet that a new election will support his preferred prime minister as a rejected prime minister refuses to leave.

Sirisena signed a decree on the dismissal of the island's 225-member assembly and the planned parliamentary elections on January 5, almost two years ahead of schedule.

A few hours ago, Sirisena's party had admitted that she did not have enough votes to support former President Mahinda Rajapakse against rival plaintiff and ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who refused to leave his post.

The two have been fighting for two weeks for the post of prime minister, as concerns about the growing unrest are growing.

There was no immediate comment from Wickremesinghe, but his United National Party (UNP) said she will challenge Sirisena's dismissal of the legislature.

"This dissolution of the president is illegal and violates the constitution," said the UNP on Twitter. "We will fight against it, to ensure that democracy is a top priority in the country."

"He has robbed the people of their rights and the democracy we have enjoyed," said the UNP.

Sirisena was under increasing international pressure from the United States, the United Nations and the European Union to give Parliament the opportunity to vote on the Prime Minister, over whom he should form a government.

Ranil Wickremesinghe.



Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka's prime minister, has refused to leave the Prime Minister's office. Photo: Eranga Jayawardena / AP

Washington quickly criticized Sirisena's last step.

"The US is deeply concerned about the news that the Sri Lankan parliament will be dissolved and the political crisis further deepened," the US State Department said in a statement to Twitter.

"As a dedicated Sri Lankan partner, we believe that democratic institutions and processes must be respected in order to ensure stability and prosperity," he said.

Sirisena's United People's Freedom Alliance announced before the startling announcement by the president that it was unable to win enough cross-over MPs to win a vote of confidence.

By avoiding a test of his majority in the House plenary, Rajapakse will remain a temporary prime minister until the end of the elections, and a new parliament will meet on January 17.

Sirisena sparked the crisis on October 26 when he dismissed Wickremesinghe and replaced him as Prime Minister of Rajapakse, the country's authoritarian president from 2005 to 2015.

Sirisena claimed on Monday that he had the backing of 113 lawmakers when he dismissed Wickremesinghe. But admitting a lack of a majority fueled speculation that he could dismiss the legislature and opt for a quick election.

The Left People's Liberation Front, which considers the dismissal of Wickremesinghe unconstitutional, accused Sirisena of trying to consolidate his grip on power.

"The dissolution of the parliament at this time is illegal and violates the constitution", said the secretary general of the party, Tilvin Silva, to the reporters.

Sirisena suspended the parliament to allow more time for the construction of overflows, the opposition said. Several lawmakers said they offered millions of dollars to change loyalty, and at least eight have already joined the president.

Wickremesinghe, who has not left the Temple Trees residence since his release, claims the lawsuit against him was unconstitutional and illegal, and insists his group can muster a majority.

Under the pressure of the UN, the US and the EU to allow a parliamentary vote, Sirisena three times agreed to lift the suspension, but always considered his opinion.

The EU said on Friday before the dissolution that the crisis had destroyed the international reputation of the Indian Ocean.

In a joint statement with Norway and Switzerland, the EU called for reuniting Parliament and voting immediately.

The power struggle on the island with 21 million people has paralyzed much of the administration, according to lawmakers on both sides of the dispute.

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