By Maria Abi-Habib and Dharisha Bastians
Sri Lanka’s political crisis appeared to edge toward a resolution Friday when one of the two men claiming to be the country’s rightful prime minister agreed to step down.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa planned to relinquish his claim to be prime minister in an address to the nation on Saturday, according to officials in his party.
The current president, Mathirpala Sirisena, appointed him as prime minister in late October, but the pair failed to clinchthe majority in Parliament needed to secure their power. Mr. Sirisena then dissolved Parliament in November.
On Thursday, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court ruled that the dissolution of Parliament had been unconstitutional, striking the final blow to Mr. Sirisena’s and Mr. Rajapaksa’s plans to take over the government.
The legally recognized prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, is expected to be sworn in again as premier on Sunday, members of his and Mr. Sirsena’s inner circles said Friday night.
The political upheaval has weakened both the president and Mr. Rajapaksa ahead of a presidential election next year and a general election in 2020. The Rajapaksa family was expected to return to power through both elections, but the turmoil has angered many Sri Lankans and hurt the already fragile economy as the important Christmas tourism season approached. Many tourists canceled their reservations as the political malaise deepened and the national currency shed its value.
Mr. Rajapaksa led the country for 10 years until he lost elections in 2015. During his tenure, Mr. Rajapaksa filled his cabinet with family members, including his three brothers, many of whom are now under investigation on charges of corruption and abuse of power. Mr. Rajapaksa’s rule also brought an end to Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, although the government was accused of committing major war crimes to end the conflict, an accusation supported by United Nations inquiries.
“To ensure stability of the nation, Former President @PresRajapaksa has decided to resign from the Premiership tomorrow after an address to the nation,” Namal Rajapaksa, his son and a member of Parliament, wrote on Twitter on Friday evening.
Namal Rajapaksa said his family’s political party would work with Mr. Sirisena’s party to form a broader coalition in Parliament. While Mr. Rajapaksa is expected to renew his demands for an early election in his address on Saturday, the family will probably enter any race with considerably less popular support than it had just seven weeks ago, seen as the chief architects of the recent turmoil.
Members of the Rajapaksa family have admitted privately that the crisis has hurt their electoral chances in urban areas and that they were surprised when they were unable to secure enough votes in Parliament to form a government.
Courtesy:New York Times