Colombo, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has dissolved the country’s parliament amid a worsening constitutional crisis triggered by the sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last month.
Sirisena announced the move in an official gazette notification on Friday, and set snap elections for the 225-member legislature on January 5.
The president said the dissolution of the parliament will take effect at midnight, and a new parliament will be summoned to meet on January 17.
Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) denounced the move in a post on Twitter, saying it “vehemently rejects” the sacking of the parliament. The party also accused Sirisena of robbing the “people of their rights and democracy”.
The deposed leader, who has remained holed up in the prime ministerial residence since his abrupt dismissal on October 26, has demanded a parliamentary vote to prove his majority.
Dayasiri Jayasekara, a cabinet minister, told Al Jazeera that Sirisena had no choice but to dissolve parliament because of Wickremesinghe’s refusal to step down.
The president was acting well within his constitutional rights in dismissing the parliament, Jayasekara stressed, adding: “The best thing is do now is go for an election. This is what the people also want.”
The order to dissolve parliament comes amid weeks of intensified horse-trading as opposing parties fought to obtain a majority in the parliament.
Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), which had the backing of 96 legislators prior to the crisis, has managed to woo at least nine legislators to switch support in the past two weeks.
However, the UNP – whose numbers declined from 106 to 98 amid defections – gained an edge when the Tamil National Alliance, a coalition of 15 legislators representing the country’s ethnic Tamil minority, said it would back a motion to oust newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Earlier on Friday, Keheliya Rambukwella, spokesman for the UPFA, admitted for the first that that the coalition did not have a majority.
“We now have 104 or 105 seats, but we will show a majority of 113 and more on the parliament floor,” he told a news conference.