Ranil Wickremesinghe elected as Sri Lanka’s new President by Parliament

Ranil Wickremesinghe elected as Sri Lanka’s new President by Parliament


Highlights

  • Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena was the first to vote
  • The two senior Rajapaksa brothers – Mahinda and Chamal – were also present during the voting
  • Wickremesinghe till Tuesday night maintained a close edge as several MPs had pledged their support

Sri Lanka president election: Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe was on Wednesday elected as Sri Lanka’s new President by Parliament, following a high-voltage political drama that saw his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa fleeing the country and resigning after a popular uprising against his government for mismanaging the economy.

The 73-year-old six-time prime minister secured 134 votes in the 225-member House while his nearest rival and dissident ruling party leader Dullas Alahapperuma got 82. Leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake secured just three votes.

The new President will have a mandate to serve out the rest of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in November 2024.

This was for the first time in 44 years that Sri Lanka’s Parliament directly elected a president. Presidential elections in 1982, 1988, 1994, 1999, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2019 had elected them by popular vote.

The only previous occasion when the presidency became vacant mid-term was in 1993 when president Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated. DB Wijetunga was unanimously endorsed by Parliament to run the balance of Premadasa’s term.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, dissident ruling party leader Dullas Alahapperuma and leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake were proposed by lawmakers on Tuesday as the three candidates for the presidential election.

It was important for a candidate to cross the magical figure of 113 in the 225-member House to win the election. The new President will have a mandate to serve out the rest of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in November 2024.

In the crucial election, 223 lawmakers voted while two MPs abstained.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena was the first to vote. The two senior Rajapaksa brothers – Mahinda and Chamal – were also present during the voting.

Sri Lanka President Election: What happened before voting

Wickremesinghe till Tuesday night maintained a close edge as a number of MPs had pledged their support to him while his rival Alahapperuma had received crucial backing from the Opposition parties as well as a majority of lawmakers from his parent party – Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

Alahapperuma’s name was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa and Member of Parliament G L Peiris seconded it. 

Wickremesinghe’s name was proposed by the Leader of the House and minister Dinesh Gunawardena and MP Manusha Nanayakkara seconded it. Dissanayake’s name was proposed by MP Vijitha Herath and MP Harini Amarasuriya seconded it.

Wickremesinghe, 73, was already being seen as the frontrunner as he has the backing of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Though he faced a serious challenge from 63-year-old Alahapperuma, who was backed by the main opposition.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) had decided to vote for Alahapperuma. However, several lawmakers said they will not follow the party line and instead vote for Wickremesinghe.

The Parliament will convene again on July 27. 

(With inputs from PTI)

Also Read | Sri Lanka’s political turmoil sows worries for recovery

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Author: Shirley