Colombo, Jul 20 (EFE).- Ranil Wickremesinghe has been elected president by the Sri Lankan parliament following a secret ballot on Wednesday, after former leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned last week while in exile.
Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced that Wickremesinghe obtained 134 of the 225 votes polled for deciding the next head of state to tackle the deep political and financial instability plaguing the nation.
Dullas Alahapperuma, who had the support of a faction of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, came in second 82 votes, while the third candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake of the leftist coalition NPP only three votes.
“Our country is in an economic crisis. We must introduce a new plan,” Wickremesinghe said in the Parliament after the results were declared, before going on to ask for cooperation from Alahapperuma, Dissanayake and Premadasa.
The politician, who has been in Sri Lankan politics for 45 years and has been five times prime minister, called on all politicians to work together to lift the country out of its current crisis.
The new president will remain at the helm of affairs until 2024, completing the original term of the deposed Rajapaksa, during which the government will have to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about a possible financial bailout.
Wickremesinghe initially became prime minister of Rajapaksa’s government, replacing his brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was forced to step down on May 9 after his followers attacked demonstrators in Colombo.
In the parliament vote, Wickremesinghe was supported by a faction of the SLPP of the Rajapakshas.
However, his candidacy enraged protesters, who demanded his resignation since he took office as prime minister, and even threatened to continue with protests if he were to be elected.
“The whole country did not want Ranil to be elected, because he is already a person who has been rejected. He did not come to parliament because of a vote from the Sri Lankans, but because Gotabaya Rajapaksa wanted to give him a chance,” Rifas Mohamed Farook, one of the protesters at the Galle park camp in Colombo, the epicenter of the protests, told EFE.
“Now the majority (of the protesters) think we won’t be able to leave, we have to protest more until he leaves,” Farook said.
The country is facing its worst economic crisis since independence from the British Empire in 1948, with an acute shortage of essential supplies, power and fuel over the last few months, caused by government mismanagement and the impact of the pandemic, among other reasons.
Since the end of March, thousands of people have taken to the streets calling for Rajapaksa’s resignation, culminating in the storming of the official residences of the president and prime minister on Jul.9 that forced the former to step down and leave the country. EFE