Sri Lankan president dissolves parliament

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved parliament with effect from midnight (AFP Photo/Prakash Singh)

Sri Lanka\’s president dissolved parliament on Friday, a government spokesman said, in an effort to consolidate power and push through political reforms.

Two government officials told Reuters elections will be held to elect a new parliament on Aug. 17.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who was elected in a Jan. 8 poll, needs parliamentary support to push through reforms he has promised, including limits on the powers of the executive presidency.

The timing of the parliamentary elections is also important. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is expected to release a report in September on human rights abuses during the final phase of the war against the Tamil insurgency in 2009.

The report could affect an attempt by Sirisena\’s predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa to stage a comeback. His supporters say he may bid for the prime ministership.

One of Sri Lanka\’s key parties, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), is split between Sirisena and Rajapaksa, who defeated the Tamil separatists in 2009. For the moment, political analysts say, the split has given Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe\’s United National Party (UNP) an edge in the election.

"The UNP will be the single largest party after the election," said Kusal Perera, director of the Center for Social Democracy, a Colombo-based think tank.

But Rajapaska\’s supporters believe that if the report criticizes him for war-time abuses, it might actually help him with Sri Lanka\’s majority Sinhalese community. He will be seen to be standing up to foreigners trying to interfere in the small island nation.

The dissolution came ahead of no-confidence motions against Wickremesinghe and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and a parliamentary committee report on a alleged bond scam under the new government.


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