COLOMBO • Sri Lanka’s new President has called a snap election for April 25 after sacking the national Parliament where his party led a minority government, officials said.
Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the power to dissolve the 225-member legislature as it completed 41/2 years of its five-year term on Sunday.
“We have received a formal notification dissolving Parliament and setting out the election calendar,” an Election Commission official told Agence France-Presse on Monday. He said the notice was to be published in the government gazette later. The gazette also said the nomination period will be between March 12 and March 19, during which candidates can file their nomination papers to election officers.
The first session of the newly elected Parliament has been set for May 14, the official said, quoting from the presidential decree.
Mr Rajapaksa, 70, scored a landslide win in last November’s presidential election and appointed his older brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister, consolidating the siblings’ hold on power.
President Rajapaksa has said the presidency needed to reclaim many of the executive powers that had been clipped by an amendment to the Constitution brought under former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) government.
Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had been president twice and prime minister three times, is expected to lead his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party to a comfortable victory in next month’s polls.
Political commentators have said it would be a formidable challenge for the opposition to prevent President Rajapaksa from securing a two-thirds majority, which will allow him sweeping powers to govern the nation of 21 million people.
Mr Wickremesinghe’s UNP has been plagued by a debilitating internal power struggle.
The Rajapaksas are adored by the country’s Sinhala-Buddhist majority – but loathed among minority Tamils – for spearheading the defeat of separatist militants in 2009 to end Sri Lanka’s 37-year ethnic war.
Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa announced last month that the country was withdrawing from a United Nations resolution investigating alleged war crimes in 2009, a move that was seen as boosting his popularity with the Sinhalese majority.
He was president when Sri Lankan troops defeated Tamil Tiger guerillas in 2009.
Rights groups accused the army of killing at least 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the conflict, a charge Colombo has denied.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA