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.
After Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the nation and resigned as a result of demonstrators occupying his palace, official results handed the seasoned politician 134 votes, an overwhelming majority in the 225-member parliament.
“Our divisions are now over,” Wickremesinghe said in a brief acceptance speech in the parliament, urging his defeated rivals to “join me and work together to bring the country out of the crisis we are facing.”
The 22 million citizens of Wickremesinghe’s insolvent country, which is in bailout negotiations with the IMF, are facing serious shortages of food, gasoline, and medications.
But Wickremesinghe vowed to take tough action against anyone resorting to what he called the undemocratic means that led to his predecessor’s ouster.
“If you try to topple the government, occupy the President’s office and the Prime Minister’s office, that is not democracy and we will deal with them firmly,” he said on an evening visit to a Buddhist temple.