Colombo: Sri Lanka’s former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has just one seat in the 225-member Parliament, could be sworn-in as the next premier on Thursday, amidst the worst economic crisis in the debt-ridden island nation.
The 73-year-old United National Party (UNP) leader held talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday and is expected to meet him again on Thursday.
Senior leaders of the UNP said that Wickremesinghe would be sworn in as the Prime Minister by President Rajapaksa at 6.30 PM (local time) on Thursday.
Wickremesinghe, who has served as the country’s prime minister for four times, was in October 2018 fired from the post of prime minister by then President Maithripala Sirisena. However, he was reinstalled as the prime minister by Sirisena after two months.
Sources said that he has the cross party backing to head the interim administration which is meant to last six months.
Members of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), a section of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and several other parties have expressed their support to show majority for Wickremesinghe in Parliament, they said.
UNP chairman Vajira Abeywardena has said that Wickremesinghe will be able to get a majority in Parliament after being sworn in as the new prime minister, replacing Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned on Monday.
The UNP, the oldest party in the country, had failed to win a single seat from districts, including Wickremesinghe who contested from the UNP stronghold Colombo in 2020 parliamentary polls.
He later found his way to Parliament through the sole national list allocated to the UNP on the basis of cumulative national vote.
His deputy Sajith Premadasa had led the breakaway SJB and became the main Opposition.
Wickremesinghe is widely accepted as a man who could manage the economy with far-sighted policies, and is perceived as the Sri Lankan politician who could command international cooperation.
He sets out to fill in the void of a government since the island was left without one since the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
In a late-night televised address to the nation, the President on Wednesday refused to quit but promised to appoint a new Prime Minister and a young Cabinet this week which would introduce key constitutional reforms to curb his powers, amid protests over the nation’s worst economic crisis that ousted his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa who is under protection at a naval base following violent attacks on his aides.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 seeking the resignation of the Rajapaksa brothers.
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