Sri Lanka: Ranil Wickremesinghe elected president by parliament

Wickremesinghe, a six-time former prime minister and a key ally of former President Gotabai Rajapaksa, won parliamentary elections after his predecessor fled the country amid escalating protests over an economic crisis marked by severe shortages of essential imports such as fuel, medicine and food. .

He received 134 votes out of 223 possible.

Addressing Parliament shortly after the results, Wickremesinghe said that although the country was “divided along party lines”, “it’s time to work together”.

Earlier this month, protesters set fire to Wickremesinghe’s private residence and seized the presidential palace in a desperate bid to overthrow the government and end the chaos that has gripped Sri Lanka since March.

The protesters seemed to have won when Rajapaksa fled and Wickremesinghe, the prime minister at the time, promised to step down to make way for a unity government.

But Wednesday’s appointment of Wickremesinghe threatens to exacerbate the situation again, as many protesters see him as inextricably linked to the Rajapaksa regime. Even some members of Sri Lanka’s ruling political party, Podujan Peramuna, have said they disapprove of his nomination to the top job.

While the vote was going on, a small group of protesters gathered on the steps of the presidential secretariat – the president’s office – to demonstrate against Wickremesinghe’s candidacy.

Some angrily chanted “Hurt, go home” when the result was announced.

Many protesters insist that only a complete overhaul of the government will satisfy their demands.

Daily life remains difficult for most Sri Lankans. The streets in the commercial capital of Colombo are mostly empty, with people queuing for hours at gas stations, desperately hoping to buy fuel. Many businesses are closed and supermarket shelves empty.

On Monday, Wickremesinghe appeared to distance himself from Rajapaksa. telling CNN that the previous administration tried to cover up the devastating financial crisis in Sri Lanka.

The Rajapaksa government has not acknowledged that Sri Lanka is “bankrupt” and “should go to the International Monetary Fund,” Wickremesinghe said.

“I would like to tell people I know what they are suffering from,” he added. “We don’t need five years or 10 years. By the end of next year, let’s start stabilizing, and by 2024, of course, we will have a functioning economy that will start to grow.”

His closest opponent in Wednesday’s vote was former journalist Dullas Alahapperuma, who received 82 votes, while a third candidate, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, received three votes.

All eyes are now on Wickremesingha and ongoing bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund as he tries to deal with the worst economic crisis the country has experienced in seven decades and contain the protests.

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