World

What's Happening in Sri Lanka? President Dissolves Parliament in Latest Power Struggle Crisis

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has dissolved his country's parliament and declared snap elections nearly two years ahead of schedule in a bid to preserve power.

Sirisena's sweeping decisions took place Friday via a decree signed just hours after his Sri Lanka Freedom Party's coalition announced it did not have enough votes to support the leader's preferred candidate for the position of prime minister. Last month, Sirisena ousted ruling United National Party Ranil Wickremesinghe leader from the premier role, hoping to instate former President Mahinda Rajapaksa—a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party—in his place.

The Agence France-Presse cited an unnamed minister as saying that "the election is likely to be held in early January" rather than the scheduled date in 2020.

GettyImages-1059608924 Supporters of ousted Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe shout slogans as they gather at the prime minister's official residence in Colombo early November 10. 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. LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images

In a situation that has developed into a full-blown political crisis for the South Asian island nation, Wickremesinghe has refused to leave his position since being expelled by Sirisena on October 26. His slated replacement, Rajapaksa led the country from 2005 to 2015, overseeing a definitive victory over the separatist Tamil Tigers rebel group, but garnering extensive accusations of corruption and human rights abuses.

Despite Sirisena claiming Monday he had the support of 113 legislators in his bid to swap Wickremesinghe for Rajapaksa, the United People's Freedom Alliance—the political bloc led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party—admitted that it only had "104 or 105 MPs" on its side, as AFP reported.

Dayasiri Jayasekara, a cabinet minister, has expressed his support for Sirisena's decision to dissolve the legislature. "The best thing to do now is go for an election. This is what the people also want," he told Al Jazeera. Rajapaksa also backed the president, tweeting that "it is our responsibility and obligation to give the people the opportunity to voice their opinions on the future of #SriLanka."

"A general election will truly establish the will of the people and make way for a stable country," he added.

As protests rocked the streets of the capital Colombo, however, the United National Party voiced its indignation on social media, saying it "is illegal and goes against the constitution." The party vowed to discuss the situation with the country's election commissioner.