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Sri Lankan political opposition seeks to further isolate president accused of executive overreach

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Sri Lankan political opposition seeks to further isolate president accused of executive overreach

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Photo: Reuters

The Sri Lankan United National Party will hold a series of demonstrations protesting executive overreach by President Maithripala Sirisena, following his decision to remove the prime minister and dissolve parliament.

The protests come following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn President Sirisena’s dissolution of the national parliament and removal of UNP PM Ranil Wickremesinghe. The ruling has given the UNP opposition a strong position to challenge the president’s actions and was quickly followed by the reinstated parliament passing two motions to force the PM’s reinstatement. The ruling has also created a strong future precedent; parliament cannot be dissolved by the president for early elections when a parliamentary majority is held by his political opposition, the UNP.

While the protests and the court ruling are expected to intensify strong public disapproval of the president, presidential immunity means that Sirisena cannot be removed from office until the end of his term in 2020. However, the opposition is expected to use the rulings to further pressure President Sirisena into reappointing the PM, which he is expected to do in the face of public and legal pressure. In the absence of an easing of tensions between the president and parliament, the situation is likely to be a strong test for Sri Lanka’s constitutional structures and the role of its judiciary in preventing a constitutional crisis.

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