Sri Lanka elects new president amid crisis
Ranil Wickremesinghe, acting president, has been supported by MPs for the top position
The Sri Lankan parliament has chosen six-time prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the island nation’s new president. After protests heated over the economic state, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his predecessor fled Sri Lanka and resigned last week.
Wickremesinghe’s candidacy was backed by 134 out of 223 MPs during a vote on Wednesday.
The 76-year-old political veteran has been acting president since Rajapaksa’s departure.
There are concerns that Wickremesinghe’s victory could lead to even more unrest as he’s a known ally of the Rajapaksa clan, which most Sri Lankans now blame for their economic woes.
Monday’s acting president declared an emergency, giving him additional powers to crackdown on dissidents.
Sri Lanka was “divided on party lines,”Now, however “time has now come to work together,”Following the election, Wickremesinghe spoke to parliament.
“It is not necessarily to say how hard the condition of the country is economically, we have to embark on a new program to go forward,”He was insistent.
Following the departure of Sajith Premadasa the opposition leader, there were three other candidates to compete for the top position in South Asia, which has 22 million people and is currently in its most severe political as well as economic crisis since 1948 independence.
Alahapperuma was the only opposition member who could be considered a challenger. He won 82 votes.
Wickremesinghe is facing a challenging task as president. The country’s economy collapsed in recent months, leading to shortages of fuel, food, and other essentials. Colombo authorities had to start talks with IMF in order to save their foreign reserves.
The crisis is being blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic, which cut tourist revenue for the island, and Rajapaksa’s ban on chemical fertilizers, which was a major blow to agriculture.