COLOMBO: Six-time prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected as crisis-wracked Sri Lanka’s new president in a parliamentary vote Wednesday, with the backing of the disgraced former leader’s party.
Official results gave the veteran politician 134 votes, an absolute majority in the 225-member parliament, after Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country and resigned in the wake of protesters overrunning his palace.
“Our divisions are now over,” Wickremesinghe said in a brief acceptance speech in parliament, urging his defeated rivals “to join me and work together to bring the country out of the crisis we are facing”.
Wickremesinghe takes charge of a bankrupt nation that is in bailout talks with the IMF, with its 22 million people enduring severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine.
But he was backed by the Rajapaksas’ SLPP party — still the largest in parliament — and is despised as a proxy for the former leader by the protesters who forced him from his palace after months of demonstrations over the unprecedented economic crisis.