Sri Lanka’s President and Prime Minister Resign, New Government in the Making

Government shakeup . . . 

After months of protests and civil unrest over the country’s economic, food, and fuel crisis, Sri Lankans forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa out of power on Saturday after storming his residence. Soon after, official announcements from the Prime Minister’s office and the Speaker confirmed that President Rajapaksa would officially step down on July 13. Meanwhile, PM Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that he would resign only after a new government was in place. In response, angry protesters set his residence on fire on Saturday. Despite a landslide victory in 2019, President Rajapaksa fell from grace as the country devolved into an economic crisis due to gross mismanagement by his government. Both Sri Lankan leaders have moved to undisclosed locations for their safety.

Parties meet to navigate succession . . .

Per the Sri Lankan Constitution’s rules of succession, if President Rajapaksa resigns on July 13 as promised, PM Wickremesinghe should assume the acting-president role until a new president is elected. However, at the all-parties conference on Sunday, where key opposition parties met to discuss a smooth transition of power and build an all-party or unity government, one of the key opposition leaders refused to have PM Wickremesinghe continue in any capacity. As a result, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, a Rajapaksa loyalist, will be acting as president and convene parliament for an election on July 20.

What’s next for Sri Lanka?

Sri Lankans’ faith in politicians and dynasties like the Rajapaksas has been rattled, so it will be a tough task for the country’s next political leaders. The unity government will need to win over the public with actionable policies and continued negotiations with international organizations and friendly countries to purchase essential commodities and stabilize the economy. The central bank warns inflation could rise to 70 per cent in the coming months. The new government will need to strategize ways to diversify Sri Lanka’s economic activities and build economically viable domestic sectors, ramping up industrialization and promoting strategic industries.