Government asserts dissolving Parliament, setting dates for polls legal

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Sri Lanka will hold a snap election in January, the country's president announced late November 9, hours after dissolving parliament when it became clear his prime minister nominee did not have a majority.

Namal Rajapaksa, an ex-lawmaker and son of Rajapaksa, said the SLFP's policies had not been pursued by Sirisena in the coalition government with the Wickremesinghe-led centre-right United National Party (UNP).

On October 26, Sirisena abruptly sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and replaced him with Mahinda Rajapaksa, after three-and-a-half years of an estranged relationship with him.

Both men say they command a majority in Parliament and had been expected to face the 225-member house this coming Wednesday.

The 225-seat parliament, which had already been suspended in the political chaos, was dissolved at midnight Friday with a vote scheduled for january 5 and a new parliament set to reconvene on january 17.

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Jayasuriya, earlier, accused Sirisena of "usurping" the rights of legislators. Wickremesinghe has insisted his firing is unconstitutional and demanded that Parliament be summoned to prove his majority.

Just before sacking the parliament, Sirisena also inducted more ministers into his cabinet.

Wickremesinghe's finance minister Mangala Samaraweera described the parliament sacking as a desperate move by Sirisena. The move could weaken Sirisena's Sri Lanka Freedom Party, of which Rajapaksa had been a longtime member.

Amid mounting local and worldwide pressure, he announced that he will reconvene parliament November 14 and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said he was going to call for a vote on that day itself to see whether Rajapaksa, commanded enough support.

"A desperate president without a majority, now resorts to more desperate measures by illegally dissolving parliament", Samaraweera said. "Sirisena has relegated the constitution to toilet paper".

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The party said in a Twitter message that it will meet the elections commissioner to discuss the constitutionality of Sirisena's move.

"It appeared to me that, if I allowed the Parliament to be convened on the 14th, without dissolving it, it could have brought about commotion and fights in every city and every village would lead to very unpleasant and hard situation for the average citizens of my beloved country", he said.

"The US is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka parliament will be dissolved, further deepening the political crisis", the US State Department said in a statement.

What effect will this have on Sri Lanka's stability? The only other legal ways would be through a referendum, or with the consent of two thirds of lawmakers. "We will be fighting this to ensure that democracy reigns supreme in the country".

Rajapaksa indicated what was coming hours before the dissolution in a speech. Dinesh Gunawardena, a newly appointed urban development minister, said the president had handed the country back to the people.

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