COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved his country’s parliament six months ahead of schedule on Tuesday, paving the way for new elections in April.
Polls will take place on April 25, nominations for which can be filed from March 12-19. Once through, the ninth parliament will be convened on May 16.
Rajapaksa’s brother, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the country’s prime minister, leads a minority government. He justified the dissolution on Tuesday by saying that his government could not continue due to the “weak strength of his party” in the 225-member parliament.
Last week, the Vote on Account (VOA) bill was withdrawn due to stiff protests from the opposition which holds the majority of votes in the legislature.
Commenting on the move, opposition member Mujibur Rahman told Arab News “no government could run well” with a marginal majority, adding that the United National Party (UNP) were the party to watch.
“The opposition UNP, which has formed an alliance with Muslim and Tamil parties, would have a walk-over at the polls,” he said.
Rishad Bathiudeen, leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress Party, told Arab News: “We are winning (in the polls) with a bigger majority than in previous years,” adding that the present government had “shown its feebleness with the premature dissolution.”
Experts said that the dissolution was expected, since the government could not function with a slim majority.
“The government has lost confidence among the people and it is hoping against hope to win the elections,” Muheed Kiran, and international human rights activist, told Arab News.
Meanwhile, the president of the Sri Lanka Muslim Council, N.M. Ameen, said the council was worried about the safety and security of his community.
“So far so good, but let’s wait for the upcoming elections,” he said.
Following the dissolution, the country will be run by a caretaker government with Mahinda Rajapaksa continuing as prime minister, while all state ministers and deputy ministers have been requested to resign from their posts on Tuesday.
Nearly 16.3 million Sri Lankans are eligible to cast their votes in the forthcoming elections.
With the premature dissolution, 67 parliamentarians will lose their pension rights, since they will not have completed the required five-year term in order to qualify.