Sri Lanka's 'comeback man' Ranil Wickremesinghe elected as new President
Ranil Wickremesinghe has been elected as the new President of crisis-hit Sri Lanka. He has been chosen by the Sri Lankan Parliament to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the new President by an in-house vote. Wickremesinghe received 134 votes in the 225-member Parliament. The nation witnessed a three-way race between Ranil Wickremesinghe, Dallas Alahapperuma, and Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
Why does this story matter?
Sri Lanka is witnessing record inflation and a food & fuel shortage due to a long-term financial crisis that has left the nation bankrupt. The nation's economy has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine crisis, leaving it with $51 billion in foreign debt. After mass civilian protests last week, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to flee the nation and resign.
Historic presidential election for Sri Lanka
This is the first time in Sri Lanka's history that the president is elected by Parliament and not via mass mandate. Now, Wickremesinghe will serve till the end of Rajapaksa's remaining tenure, who submitted his resignation from Singapore on July 15. Wickremesinghe was appointed as the acting president soon after Gotabaya's ouster.
Three-way race to the presidency
Six-time Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, former Rajapaksa-ally but now independent Dullas Alahapperuma, and left-inclined Anura Kumara Dissanayake were nominated by parties on Tuesday. Wickremesinghe was backed by Rajapaksas's party which has the majority of seats in the Parliament, while his main opponent, former journalist Alahapperuma had received support from the opposition. Dissanayake's coalition currently has three parliamentary seats.
Alahapperuma emerged as key opponent
The Rajapaksas's Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) was divided on its choice for Gotabaya's successor with many of its MPs favoring Alahapperuma, who had served as an ally of the party previously. Key opposition parties had announced their support for Alahapperuma as Sajith Premadasa withdrew from the race to support him.
Wickremesinghe as acting president had imposed emergency
To note, Wickremesinghe had imposed a state of emergency in Sri Lanka this week in an attempt to suppress civil unrest, giving sweeping powers to security forces. He is also believed to take strict measures against protesters after winning the presidential race and had beefed up security for the voting process. "Ranil is emerging as the law-and-order candidate," a Sri Lankan MP told AFP.
Vacuum in food, fuel, and essential services
Meanwhile, amid the ongoing political and economic turmoil, citizens continue to stand in queues for food and fuel. "We have been standing in line for fuel for over two days. I had it filled for [LKR] 10,000 which was enough for 2-3 days," said cricketer Chamika Karunaratne. A "fuel pass" has also been introduced by Lanka to ensure a weekly fuel quota for motorists.