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Sri Lanka to set date for parliamentary elections

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Sri Lanka to set date for parliamentary elections

Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa in 2018
Photo: Getty Images

Sri Lanka is set to decide on a date for parliamentary elections today.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved parliament six months early and called for new elections on April 25, claiming that he faced restrictions from an opposition-commanded majority in the body. Rajapaksa and his brother, Prime Minister Mahindra Rajapaksa, hoped that new elections would grant them the majority needed to amend the constitution and extend the powers of the president. New elections were originally set for April 25, then postponed to June 20, and postponed again indefinitely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The country now faces a constitutional crisis as the new parliament will not convene before the legal deadline of June 2. President Rajapaksa has refused to use his discretionary powers to reconvene the dissolved parliament. Since March, he has operated his government without the oversight of parliament, drawing petitions from seven different groups to the Supreme Court and raising concerns that this could spell the end of Sri Lanka’s constitutional electoral democracy.

Capitalising on infighting and disarray within the opposition parties, if Rajapaksa can gain the support of Muslim voters, it is more likely that the brothers will win the majority necessary to amend the constitution and remove checks on presidential power. Then, Rajapaksa will be free to promote Sinhalese nationalism through economic, foreign and national security policies.

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