Sri Lanka President dissolves parliament, general elections on January 5

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

Sirisena suspended Parliament for two weeks in a move Wickremesinghe's backers said was created to buy time to shore up support.

An official notification signed by President Maithripala Sirisena announced the dissolution of Parliament effective midnight Friday.

Samaraweera said his party had supported Sirisena to come to power in January 2015, hoping he would be a benevolent leader like Nelson Mandela of South Africa, but that he had shown himself to be a "tyrant".

Sirisena signed a decree dismissing the island's 225-member assembly just hours after his party admitted it did not have enough votes to support former president Mahinda Rajapakse against rival claimant Ranil Wickremesinghe.

On Sunday, the president called for parliament to reconvene November 14 amid increasing worldwide pressure to resolve the crisis.

Keheliya Rambukwella, a spokesman for Sirisena's government, said the president's coalition had the backing of 105 lawmakers as of Friday, eight short of a parliamentary majority.

Wickremesinghe, who has not left the Temple Trees residence since his sacking, maintains that the action against him was unconstitutional and illegal, and insists his group can muster a majority.

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"The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr. Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament", said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director at USA -based analyst group Atlantic Council's South Asia Center. Sirisena has also accused Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Wickremesinghe repeatedly denied. He refused to acknowledge any human rights abuses in the final campaign, in which rights groups say up to 40,000 civilians died. "At the end of the day, he is a victim of his own homegrown crisis".

Wickremesinghe's camp is likely to contest Sirisena's move because of constitutional provisions stating a Parliament can't be dissolved until four and a half years after its election. "We will fight in the courts, we will fight in parliament and we will fight at the polls".

"The party will be pursuing the intervention of the courts to ensure the rule of law and the Constitution is protected against autocratic moves", a UNP statement said.

"This further political uncertainty is corrosive to Sri Lanka's democratic future and its commitments on reconciliation and accountability", it said. The only other legal ways would be through a referendum, or with the consent of two thirds of lawmakers.

"He gave illegal orders in defiance of the president", Gunawardena said referring to Jayasuriya's assertion that parliament must hold a floor test to prove the legality of the appointment of Rajapaksa as prime minister replacing Wickremesinghe.

"Unfortunately, we fear that recent actions, if not corrected, will threaten your country's democratic development and derail the progress made in recent years", said the letter to Sirisena.

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