Sri Lanka crisis: President Sirisena dissolves parliament, calls for snap polls

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The dissolution seems to have deepened the political crisis that was triggered by Sirisena'a replacing of Ranil Wickremesinghe with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, rather than abate it.

Jayampathy Wickramaratne, one of Sri Lanka's foremost constitutional law experts and a member of Parliament representing Wickremesinghe's United National Front coalition, said he and other coalition delegates met with the chairman of Sri Lanka's Election Commission on Saturday and urged him not to take action toward the snap elections decreed by the president on Friday.

The government also believes that it may not be the right time to wade into the crisis as Wickremesinghe is likely to approach court against the dissolution and decision to go for polls in January.

Wickremesinghe, however, claims he is still the legally appointed prime minister. "This is what the people also want", he told the news portal. The legislator called Sirisena a tyrant.

Mark Field, the British minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, said: "As a friend of Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom calls on all parties to uphold the constitution and respect democratic institutions and processes".

Sirisena signed an official notification dismissing the 225-member assembly well ahead of its August 2020 term expiry, state television reported.

Sirisena's rivals are set to challenge his decision, which they describe as illegal and unconstitutional, in the Supreme Court on Monday.

Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks during a rally near the parliament in Colombo, Sri Lanka November 5, 2018.

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While the U.S. was quick to react, saying that the dissolution deepened the political crisis and that democratic institutions be respected, India did not issue any official statement on Sirisena's move.

Sirisena signed a decree dismissing the legislature in a bid to head off any revolt against his actions which included suspending parliament for almost three weeks.

A spokeswoman for the European Union's foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the move "risks undermining public confidence in the country's democratic institutions and processes and further deepens the political and economic crisis in the country".

"The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament", said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director the South Asia Center, affiliated with the US-based Atlantic Council.

"He renews his call on the Government to ensure peace and safety for all Sri Lankans and uphold its commitments to human rights, justice and reconciliation", the spokesman said.

When Wickremesinghe refused to leave the post and demanded a vote in parliament to prove that he has a majority support in the House, the President prorogued the legislature until November 16 to allow the new Prime Minister to lure the MPs to his side with cabinet posts. Former President Rajapaksa drifted close to Beijing during his 2005-2015 rule, while Wickramasinghe is considered closer to India and pro-Western.

"The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr. Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament", said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director at USA -based analyst group Atlantic Council's South Asia Center.