Sri Lanka crisis: Ranil Wickremesinghe elected as new president

Wednesday, 20 July 2022 (13:10 IST)
Sri Lanka's Parliament on Wednesday elected acting President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as president after embattled former leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa tendered his resignation and fled the country last week.

The new president will serve the remainder of Rajapaksa's term, which ends in 2024.

The incoming president faces the mammoth task of leading the country out of the deep political, economic and humanitarian crisis that has caused civil unrest and toppled the standing government.

Earlier this week, as Sri Lanka's acting president, Wickremesinghe imposed a state of emergency as the country struggles with crippling shortages of essential items, including food, fuel and medicine.

Opposing Wickremesinghe was Dullas Alahapperuma, a former government minister and spokesman who is considered more acceptable to protesters but lacks top-level governing experience.

Alahapperuma was nominated by a breakaway faction of the ruling coalition and also holds the support of ethnic minority parties.

Official results showed Wickremesinghe earned 134 votes with opponent Alahapperuma getting 82

Protests expected

Security forces, including hundreds of police, paramilitary and military troops, were deployed around the parliament building ahead of the vote as protesters waited for a new president to be elected.

The road leading to the building had at least three barricades even as security personnel patrolled a lake around the parliament in speed boats. Military jeeps and armored vehicles were also stationed within the perimeter.

Reporting from outside the Parliament building in Colombo, DW correspondent Manira Chaudhary said a large screen has been set outside, and the vote is being live streamed.

"People have been very clear in their demand that they want Ranil Wickremesinghe to step down," Chaudhary said. "If Wickremesinghe comes to power, the struggle will continue," she added.

"Many say they are tired of looking at the failed leadership of the country and what they really want is for the new leader to build trust and confidence so that they can finally go back home," Chaudhary said of the protesters.

Despite Wickremesinghe's experience in diplomatic affairs and his role in leading the crucial International Monetary Fund talks, he faces intense opposition from many Sri Lankans.

Wickremesinghe's victory is expected to result in more demonstrations by protesters who see him as a proxy for the Rajapaksas.

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