Sri Lankan president poised to dissolve parliament ahead of elections

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Photo: AP

Sri Lanka’s newly-elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, is expected to dissolve parliament today, clearing the way for early legislative elections no later than April 25.

Upon his election to the presidency in November 2019, Rajapaksa appointed his brother and political veteran, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as prime minister. However, the current parliament is still loyal to the administration of former president Maithripala Sirisena and ex-premier Renil Wickremasinghe. Indeed, the current majority United National Front bloc was formed to thwart Mahinda’s prime ministerial ambitions during the last parliamentary elections in 2015.

Expect the Rajapaksa political alliance to run on a strong anti-terrorism and security platform—especially in light of last year’s Easter Sunday terrorist bombings. In their favour is that many in the majority ethnic group, the Sinhalese—comprising 75% of the country—credit the Rajapaksas for defeating the Tamil Tigers in a bloody and protracted civil war. Mahinda was president and Gotabaya was defence minister at the 2009 conclusion of the 26-year conflict.

Given their landslide presidential victory in November, the Rajapaksa alliance is favoured to win the lion’s share of votes. However, the final result is likely to be decided by traditional post-election horse-trading between parties and political blocs. Should parliament swing their way, the Rajapaksas’ controversial past of alleged war crimes and extrajudicial killings will reignite fears of repression among ethnic minorities.

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