Sri Lanka President’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) which was decimated at recent local election has said it wants to topple Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and form a new administration.
UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera told reporters Wednesday that he wrote Sirisena claiming that they had a majority in the 225-member assembly to form a new government.
However, there is a major constitutional obstacle to removing Wickremesinghe. The 19th amendment to the constitution does not give the president the power to sack the prime minister unless parliament first through a resolution removes him with 113 MPs supporting it.
It will be a formidable ask even for a united UPFA get the support of the Tamil National Alliance to topple Wickremesinghe.
Amaraweera said he was assured that the Rajapaksa faction, which contested the August 2015 elections under the UPFA ticket, will support them to topple Wickremesinghe, but did not say how they will muster the required majority.
The UPFA has only 96 seats — 55 with Rajapaksa and 41 with Sirisena — and they are still short of another 17 seats if their 96 can remain as one bloc. The Sirisena-faction said they were hopeful of getting conditional support from the Rajapaksa faction to topple the UNP-led government of Wickremesinghe.
The required 17 would have to come from the TNA which has 16 and the JVP which has six or the UNP which has 106.
Both the TNA and the JVP, or the People’s Liberation Front, have made it clear they will not support anyone to topple a government or form a new one.
This leaves the UPFA with a difficult ask of having to secure the defection of 17 UNP members. However, some MPs who contested under the UNP, but are not real UNP members such as Venerable Athuraliye Ratana could jump to the UPFA side.
A handful of Muslim MPs could also defect, but it will be a difficult decision given the Muslim electorate is staunchly opposed to any truck with the Rajapaksa-faction over its association with hard-line Buddhist extremists.
The UPFA was crushed at Saturday’s local government elections. Sirisena who secured over 51 percent at the January 2015 election, but under his leadership his party managed to get just 13 percent at the local poll.