Sri Lanka’s ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe returned to power on December 16th. For the first time in almost two months, citizens in the country knew unequivocally who occupied the post of Prime Minister. A political crisis was averted.
In late October, President Sirisena unexpectedly replaced Wickremesinghe with Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The reason behind the surprise firing was two leaders’ long-time personal disagreements and differences over a wide range of policy issues. But the new Prime Minister Rajapaksa could not win a majority in the parliament and was finally forced to step down in order to avoid a complete government shutdown.
The party that Wickremesinghe belongs to—the United National Party (UNP)—announced on Sunday that the sacked Prime Minister had, for the fifth time, been sworn into his old post as a result of weeks of political stalemate. Hundreds of UNP supporters celebrated Wickremesinghe’s reinstatement in front of his house.
Sirisena became President in 2015. Back then, he made a promise to restore democracy and contain the out-of-control corruption with the Sri Lankan government.
Wickremesinghe’s reinstatement was a huge embarrassment for Sirasena. After firing Wickremesinghe, the President swore to never appoint the latter again. For six weeks, he tried to avoid Wickremesinghe’s comeback. After realizing that Rajapaksa did not have the Parliament’s support, Sirasena even attempted to dissolve the whole Parliament and hold a new election. The Supreme Court, however, stopped the election. It also issued a ban preventing Rajapaksa from practicing any official power as a Prime Minister.
On December 14th, Rajapaksa finally gave in, showing a willingness to voluntarily resign from office. In his last speech as Prime Minister, nevertheless, Rajapaksa claimed that his party had sufficient support from the people for him to soon return to power. “What is now gathering against the enemies of the country is a country-wide political force that no one can stop,” he said.
In his sworn-in ceremony, Wickremesinghe expressed gratitude to “everyone who stood firm in defending the constitution and ensuring the triumph of democracy”.
He tweeted that his reinstatement was “a victory for Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions and the sovereignty of our citizens”.
Rajapaksa’s son, Namal, extended an olive branch to Wickremesinghe and indicated his acceptance of the transition. “I hope at least now he will towards ensuring the sovereignty of this country and more so address issues of our people more than Western interests,” he tweeted.
Sri Lanka currently suffers from an inefficient political system and a chaotic economy. There is also a widespread worry of a sovereign debt default. After the Parliament failed to negotiate a government budget plan for 2019, ratings agencies downgraded Sri Lanka’s credit rating.
Wickremesinghe vowed to put the country back on track: “Our first objective is to return the country to normalcy and to restart the developmental process again … We want to develop the country.”
Featured image via President Media Division/EPA-EFE