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Sri Lanka's president dissolves parliament, deepening political crisis
10 November 2018, 07:07 | Darnell Patrick
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena
But Rajapaksa is short of votes in parliament to return to power as prime minister and the sacked, Western-friendly premier, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has refused to back down.
The speaker of Sri Lanka's parliament, Karu Jayasuriya, last week warned that the country could descend into political violence if the legislature remained suspended.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved parliament on Friday night and called a general election for January 5 in a move that will likely deepen the country's political crisis. Under the Constitution, the Prime Minister's office does not fall vacant unless in circumstances of his death, voluntary resignation or loss of majority in a crucial vote in Parliament.
He named Mahinda Rajapakse as the new leader, but appeared to dissolve parliament and call elections as he had failed to gain enough parliamentary votes to secure backing for the move.
It was not immediately clear if he would vacate the official Temple Trees residence following the dissolution of parliament. Sirisena also accused Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Wickremesinghe repeatedly denied.
President Sirisena's actions in dissolving Parliament on the night of November 9 is yet another blatant violation of an explicit provision of the constitution.
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.
"We will go to the courts", Samaraweera told reporters in Colombo.
Independent legal experts said parliament could be dissolved only after four-and-half-years from the date of the Aug 2015 parliamentary election, either through a referendum, or with the consent of two-third of lawmakers.
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Following the Parliament's dissolution on Friday, the United National Party - of which Ranil Wickremesinghe is the leader - vehemently rejected the move, and said that it was illegal.
"Mr Sirisena has relegated the constitution to toilet paper".
"We will fight the emerging tyranny of Sirisena".
"As a committed partner of Sri Lanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity", the US State Department said.
Earlier, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and two other lawmakers wrote to Sirisena warning that actions circumventing the democratic process could impact U.S. assistance - including a planned five-year aid package from the Millennium Challenge Corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The incoming head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee warned Sirisena he was jeopardizing USA assistance including a package under discussion through the Millennium Challenge Cooperation, which supports countries that observe democratic norms.
Rajapaksa indicated what was coming hours before the dissolution in a speech.
Violence erupted at the end of October when crowds loyal to the President attempted to prevent the recently deposed petroleum minister Arjuna Ranatunga from entering a government building in Colombo.
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