In a sudden development, former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa became the country’s new Prime Minister on Friday after President Maithripala Sirisena sacked premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.
"Former #SriLanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as new Prime Minister," Rajapaksa, 72, tweeted with a picture of him and Sirisena after the swearing in ceremony.
The move came after Sirisena's broader political front United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) announced that it has decided to quit the current unity government with prime minister Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP). This led to Sirisena appointing Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister, replacing Wickremesinghe, which follows a semi-presidential mode of government. President Sirisena’s party put an end to the coalition after tensions surfaced between him and Wickremesinghe.
Mahinda Amaraweera, agriculture minister and the general secretary of the UPFA, told reporters that the UPFA decision has been conveyed to Parliament."This is an anti democratic coup," Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera tweeted.
“The swearing in of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister is “illegal and unconstitutional”, Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying by PTI.
“I will continue to be the Prime Minister. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s appointment is unconstitutional,” he added.
What does it mean?
# Rajapaksa's return to power ends a more than three-year-old coalition government that was formed by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe on a promise to combat corruption and financial irregularities.
# Political analysts said Sirisena's move to install Rajapaksa as the prime minister could lead to a constitutional crisis as the 19th amendment to the Constitution would not allow the sacking of Wickremesinghe as the premier without a majority.
# Rajapaksa and Sirisena combine has only 95 seats and is short of a simple majority. Wickremesinghe's UNP has 106 seats on its own with just seven short of the majority.
# Last week, it was reported that Sirisena accused his senior coalition partner the UNP of not taking seriously an alleged conspiracy to assassinate him and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the former top defence ministry bureaucrat and brother of ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
(With agency inputs)