Members of Sri Lanka’s parliament have elected Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s new president after their former leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country and quit amid protests over the country’s ensuing economic crisis.
Interim leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was nominated by the ruling party. He beat Dullus Alahapperuma, by 134 votes to 82 in the parliamentary vote.
Dullas Alahapperuma, a dissident ruling party MP backed by the main opposition was the biggest challenger to Wickremesinghe. Wickremesinghe will have a mandate to serve out the rest of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term which ends in 2024.
After being voted as President, Wickremesinghe informed the parliament the nation was “in a very difficult situation” adding that “we have big challenges ahead”.
The veteran leader called for political unity, and asked opposition parties to work alongside his government for the good of the country.
Wickremesinghe is a six-time prime minister who has been in Sri Lankan politics for 45 years.
The country is bankrupt and is facing a shortage of food fuel and other essential supplies. Sri Lanka is in dire need of a stable government to continue stalled negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package.
The Rajapaksa family and their administration have ruled the country for nearly two decades and the blame for the current crisis is being pinned on them.
The BBC in a report said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives last week after crowds took over government buildings, demanding political leaders – including Wickremesinghe – step down. Rajapaksa then flew to Singapore and officially resigned late on Thursday.