Colombo, Sri Lanka ( Associated Press) — Sri Lanka’s lawmakers on Wednesday elected six-time Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as president, replacing the ousted leader who fled the country in a vote that crippled the troubled South Asian island nation. risk of political upheaval.
He said that he has spent 45 years of his life in Parliament and he is happy that it has given him the honor of becoming the President. “I don’t need to tell you what condition our country is in. Now the election is over, we have to end this division. We had 48 hours to stay divided but from now on I am ready to talk to you Am.’
Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May, hoping to bring stability to the country’s worst economic crisis. Wickremesinghe became acting president last week after Rajapaksa fled the country and resigned by email.
Wickremesinghe, 73, is a seasoned politician with vast experience in diplomatic and international affairs. But he is unpopular among voters who see him as a holdover from Rajapaksa’s government. Protesters outside the President’s residence were chanting “go home, Ranil” after his election.
A vote of 134 MPs put Wickremesinghe ahead of former government minister Dullas Alhapparuma, who received 82 votes. The Marxist candidate had three.
Wickremesinghe will serve the remainder of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in 2024. Rajapaksa fled the country and resigned by email last week after protesters stormed his official residence over the country’s economic collapse. and occupied major state buildings.
As president, Wickremesinghe now has the discretion to appoint a new prime minister.
The President in Sri Lanka is usually elected by the people. The responsibility falls on Parliament only when the office of the President becomes vacant before it is officially terminated.
This has happened only once before in Sri Lanka when the then Prime Minister Dingiri Banda Wijetunga was elected unopposed by Parliament in 1993, when the father of the current opposition leader, former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, was assassinated.
The economic crisis has left Sri Lanka’s 22 million people short of essentials, including medicine, fuel and food while the government negotiates a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. and the resulting political crisis has left worry About whether a new government will be enough to fix the economy and pacify a public angry at the failures of its politicians.
Wickremesinghe, playing a dual role as Finance Minister Leading the crucial IMF talks. Delivering a weekly speech in parliament, he warned that the way out of the crisis would be difficult, while pledging to replace a government that has concentrated power under the presidency.
However, the public sees him as a holdover from the Rajapaksa government, leading the country to economic devastation.
Only a few MPs had publicly stated that they would vote for Wickremesinghe, as there was hostility against him. Dozens of MPs loyal to Rajapaksa whose houses were torched by protesters in May are said to be backing Wickremesinghe on assurances that he will punish criminals severely and maintain law and order.
All 225 members of parliament, including the speaker, were eligible to vote on a rank-choice ballot. Two members did not participate and some ballots were declared invalid.