Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has dissolved Parliament six months before its term was to end in August. He has announced fresh elections for April 25.
The country’s constitution allows the government to dissolve Parliament six months before its five-year term ends. Rajapaksa hopes that early elections will provide him a stronger majority allowing him to make constitutional changes that will enhance Presidential powers. Changes to the constitution will require a two-thirds majority in the Parliament, which Rajapaksa currently does not enjoy.
His predecessor, Maithripala Sirisena, had reduced Presidential powers in favor of Parliament and independent commissions. This had created two power centres in the government—the President and the Prime Minister. Friction between the two offices led to political instability after the Easter terror attacks of April 2019 that killed over 250 people. Investigations showed that the bombings had happened due to a massive intelligence and security failure.
Islamic State militants had bombed hotels and churches driving a wedge between Buddhists and Muslims, leading to fears of communal violence. This led to finger-pointing within the Sri Lankan government, with nobody taking the blame for the lapse. For Sri Lanka, the bombings were the worst terror attacks since the country had ended its long-drawn civil war with the LTTE almost ten years back.
It was against this warring backdrop and political instability that Rajapaksa was elected as President in November 2019. Days after this victory, Rajapaksa appointed his brother and former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the Prime Minister. The two brothers had earlier worked together as the President (Mahinda) and the defence secretary ensuring that the LTTE was completely wiped out from the country and peace was restored..