Sri Lanka president 'dissolves parliament' amid deepening crisis

Sri Lanka president 'dissolves parliament' amid deepening crisis

Sri Lanka president 'dissolves parliament' amid deepening crisis

Sirisena signed a decree dismissing the legislature in a bid to head off any revolt against his actions which included suspending parliament for almost three weeks.

By avoiding a test of his majority on the floor of the House, Rajapaksa will remain caretaker prime minister until elections are concluded and a new parliament meets on January 17.

The 225-seat parliament will end at midnight Friday and a new one will meet January 17 after a vote January 5, according to a presidential announcement.

In a situation that has developed into a full-blown political crisis for the South Asian island nation, Wickremesinghe has refused to leave his position since being expelled by Sirisena on October 26.

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Sirisena has said he fired Wickremesinghe because the prime minister was trying to implement "a new, extreme liberal political concept by giving more priority for foreign policies and neglecting the local people's sentiment".

On Sunday, the president called for parliament to reconvene November 14 amid increasing global pressure to resolve the crisis. But the admission of a lack of a majority had fuelled speculation that Sirisena may sack the legislature and go for a snap election.

"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 US -based analyst group Atlantic Council's South Asia Center. Sirisena also accused Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Wickremesinghe repeatedly denied.

The former Prime Minister-led United National Party (UNP) says the dissolution of Parliament by the President Maithripala Sirisena today almost two years before its term expires is illegal and against the constitution. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.

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"This is a gross violation of the constitution", Harsha De Silva, a lawmaker in Wickremesinghe's party, told Reuters in reference to the dissolution of parliament. "We will fight this dictator to the end".

"As a committed partner of Sri Lanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity", the US State Department said.

"This further political uncertainty is corrosive to Sri Lanka's democratic future and its commitments on reconciliation and accountability", it said. Sirisena's action came hours after his party, United People's Freedom Alliance admitted that it does not have the numbers to enable newly-appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to win a confidence vote in Parliament. The only other legal ways would be through a referendum, or with the consent of two thirds of lawmakers.

"Unfortunately, we fear that recent actions, if not corrected, will threaten your country's democratic development and derail the progress made in recent years", said the letter to Sirisena.

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