Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe urged Sri Lanka’s parties on Wednesday to work together as he began forming a new government backed by minority Tamils after a surge in support for his reform-driven agenda in parliamentary elections.
Political analysts and sources within the UNP say their party, represented by incumbent prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, will fall just short of the 113 out of 196 seats needed to secure a majority, but should be able to align with other political parties.
The UPFA (United People’s Freedom Alliance) had fought the elections under the leadership of former President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa who was their Prime Ministerial candidate.
The nationalist strongman has set his sights on becoming premier of an SLFP-led government but Sirisena, who succeeded him as the party’s leader in January, has ruled that out and purged Rajapaksa loyalists from senior posts. “I have discussed with President Maithripala Sirisena the need to take this concept forward where we all need to build a consensus on our national policies”, he added.
“We will also form the Cabinet thereafter”, former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said.
The UPFA’s big victory margins in January presidential election, however, have not been affected by the UNP’s gains or the votes that have gone to the Marxist JVP or the People’s Liberation Front.
Rajapaksa was aiming to become prime minister, a position that could eventually elevate him back to the presidency.
The United National Party (UNP), the key constituent in the country’s minority government, expressed confidence that it would get the numbers in the 225-seat parliament to form the next government.
He was hailed by many in among the country’s majority Sinhalese ethnic population as a warrior king for defeating Tamil Tiger separatists to end a almost 26-year civil war.
Since leaving office, Rajapaksa and some of his closest relatives are facing corruption charges. Former president Rajapaksa, 69, voted in his home constituency of Hambantota.
Sirisena followed up by suspending over 20 central committee members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the main constituent party of the UPFA, which both Sirisena and Rajapaksa represent. Sources said Wickremesinghe would likely engineer defections from the fractured opposition.