Sri Lanka crisis deepens as president calls snap election

Mahinda Rajapaksa Short Of'Magic Number To Prove Majority Spokesperson

Sri Lankan Parliament dissolved as Mahinda Rajapaksa fails to garner majority before November 14

The Sri Lankan president's decision to dissolve parliament and call snap elections, his latest attempt to blast a political rival from the prime minister's office, will be challenged in the country's supreme court.

He said in a statement that a new parliament will be convened on January 17, after a general election is held on January 5.

Following the sacking, the president suspended parliament in a move which Wickremesinghe said was meant to prevent the ousted prime minister from contesting the decision in the legislature.

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.

Both men say they command a majority in Parliament and had been expected to face the 225-member house this coming Wednesday.

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"At the moment we have 104 or 105 MPs", UPFA spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters, adding that the Sirisena-Rajapakse group hoped to secure support from "crossover" legislators.

Shortly before sacking the legislature, Sirisena also took over the police department by attaching it to his defence ministry.

Wickremesinghe said his sacking was unconstitutional as he still enjoyed a majority in Parliament and still occupies the official residence.

Wickremesinghe's finance minister Mangala Samaraweera described the parliament sacking as a desperate move by Sirisena.

The dissolution came hours after a close aide of the president said that Sirisena had decided that there will be no snap election or a national referendum to end the political turmoil.

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Wickremesinghe's camp is likely to contest Sirisena's move because of constitutional provisions stating a Parliament can't be dissolved until 4 1/2 years after its election.

"We are prepared to go for an election, but this is illegal", said Harsha De Silva, who was state minister of economic affairs under Wickremesinghe's government. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.

"President Sirisena's decision to dissolve parliament poses a vital threat to Sri Lanka's democratic institutions", the U.S. Embassy in Colombo said in a statement posted to Twitter on Saturday. "Sirisena has relegated the constitution to toilet paper".

Rajapakse and ousted Wickremesinghe have been battling for power for two weeks as worldwide concern grew over the mounting turmoil in the strategically important island nation.

Rajapaksa and 44 former lawmakers of the Sirisena-led centre-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on Sunday joined Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP), a political party formed in 2016 by Rajapaksa's younger brother Basil, a former economy minister.

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"We fear that recent actions, if not corrected, will threaten your country's democratic development and derail the progress made in recent years", the three lawmakers said in a letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press.

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