COLOMBO, November 11: Sri Lanka’s former strongman leader Mahinda Rajapakse on Sunday vowed snap elections would go ahead to “seek a mandate from the people” after the president’s sacking of parliament plunged the country deeper into political turmoil.
President Maithripala Sirisena triggered the crisis two weeks ago by sacking prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replacing him with Rajapakse in a power swap his rivals say is illegal.
Sirisena dismissed parliament on Friday and called new polls for January 5, throwing the island into fresh chaos as the United States urged Sri Lanka to respect democratic processes.
Wickremesinghe’s party had wanted parliament reconvened to prove he commanded a majority, but Sirisena refused and sacked the legislature instead, escalating a standoff between the rival factions.
Rajapakse, a former president who led Sri Lanka with an iron fist for a decade, said “no one” could stop the polls going ahead.
“The election will go ahead and I am confident we will sweep the election,” he told reporters Sunday in his first remarks since the polls were called.
“The international community must realise that this is democracy. They must understand our position. We are seeking a mandate from the people.”
Rajapakse said he was meeting with lawyers ahead of a slew of legal challenges in the Supreme Court to his appointment and the polls.
His rival Wickremesinghe insists he still heads the government and has refused to vacate the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo.
Sirisena dissolved parliament less than a week before the legislature was expected to vote on either Rajapakse and Wickremesinghe.
Sirisena’s party had acknowledged that it did not have a majority in the 225-member assembly, despite arranging eight defections from Wickremesinghe’s party. (AFP)