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Wickremesinghe elected Lankan President by parliament

Fleeing ex-Prez Gotabaya Rajapaksa's ally and PM Wickremesinghe defeated ruling SLPP's rebel leader Dullas Alahapperuma and leftist and SJB leader Anura Dissanayake in a voting by secret ballot in the parliament on Wednesday.

COLOMBO, July 20: Current Prime Minister and acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected President of Sri Lanka by the parliament on Wednesday defeating ruling SLPP's rebel leader Dullas Alahapperuma and leftist and SJB leader Anura Dissanayake. Wickremesinghe, winning by first preferences, polled 134 votes while Dullas got 82 and Anura just 3 in a House of 225 members.

The election was necessitated by the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country on July 9 even as the street protesters of a popular uprising over an unprecedented economic crisis leading to shortages of essential commodities in the country, occupied the Presidential palace and the Prime Minister's office.

The election of the President by the parliament happened first time in the last 44 years. According to the Constitution, parliament elects President when the office falls vacant before term due to resignation of the incumbent or due to natural cause. The President elected by this provision will occupy the seat for the remaining period of the term of the exited President.

The contestants were SLPP nominee, Prime Minister and acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, ruling SLPP's rebel leader Dullas Alahapperuma, who was supported by Sajith Premadasa, leader of the Opposition and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), by quitting the contest, and leftist Anura Dissanayake.

The results show the Rajapaksas will have their grip over the Government even after the election, and that the countrywide street protests did not have the desired outcome.

While six-time Prime Minister Wickremesinghe (73), leader of the United National Party, is close to Gotabaya Rajapaksa who fled the country and resigned as President, Dullas has his connections with Mahinda Rajapaksa who had recently resigned as Prime Minister paving the way for Wickremesinghe to become the PM amidst the wave of anti- Government protests sweeping the country for the past several months over the shortages of food, fuel and medicines for which the Rajapaksas' mismanagement of economy, foreign exchange and their mis-governance were blamed. Lanka imports all essential commodities for which currently there is no foreign exchange available.

As the protesters stormed the President's Palace, Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country, necessitating election of a new President even as Wickremesinghe took over as acting President.

Dullas Daham Kumara Alahapperuma (63), a Sinhala Buddhist nationalist, Member of Parliament since 2005 and former Cabinet Minister of Information, is a leader of the rebel faction of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (commonly known by its Sinhalese name Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna - SLPP- the parrty is also known as Sri Lanka People's Front), the ruling party of the Rajapaksas, supported by Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, Member of Parliament for Colombo district, current leader of the Opposition, and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) leader, who withdrew from the contest in favour of Dullas, leaving three candidates in the fray.

The third contender was a leftist leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayake (53), leader of the opposition National People's Power (NPP) party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) (People's Liberation Front).

History of political parties in Lanka

After Independence, the major parties were the conservative United National Party (UNP) and the liberal Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). The new-comer SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) is a splinter party from the SLFP. SLPP became powerful after Mahinda Rajapaksa joined it. Governments are formed mostly by coalitions with the smaller parties.

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