Sri Lanka president dissolves parliament in bid to end power struggle

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the nation's parliament on Friday, in a move that will likely worsen an already deep political crisis.

"We will definitely challenge this in the Supreme Court, that the president is violating the constitution", said Harsha De Silva, who was state minister of economic affairs under Wickremesinghe's government. 96 MPs had supported the party before the crisis.

The move comes after an intense power struggle in the past two weeks which followed Sirisena's sudden sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the appointment of former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Sirisena had claimed on Monday he had the support of 113 legislators when he sacked Wickremesinghe.

Under pressure from the local as well as global organizations including the United Nations, European Union and Western governments, the President chose to reconvene the parliament on November 14, just two days ahead of the scheduled date. But the admission of a lack of a majority had fuelled speculation that he might sack the legislature and go for a snap election.

Relations between Wickremesinghe and Sirisena became strained this year after their coalition was defeated in local elections by a Rajapaksa-backed party.

"The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr. Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament", said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director at New Delhi-based analyst group Atlantic Council's South Asia Center.

Following the unprecedented decision, Wickremesinghe refused to accept the move and sought a vote in the Parliament to prove his majority, however, Parliament was suspended and was scheduled to reconvene, it was dissolved on Friday by Sirisena. At least eight have switched sides, but at least 120 deputies in the 225-seat parliament remain loyal to Wickramasinghe.

"Any further delay could damage Sri Lanka's worldwide reputation and deter investors", the statement said.

"In extraordinary numbers and with extraordinary courage you came out on to the streets, you spoke out", Wickremesinghe said in a Facebook video.

"For this inspiring effort, I want to thank everyone who has risen to fight for democracy and justice", he said. According to latest counts, Wickremesinghe has 103 MPs after gaining a defector on Tuesday, while Rajapakse and Sirisena have 101.

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

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