Sri Lankan Parliament Votes In Support of Sri Lankan Prime Minister in No-Confidence Motion
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe survived a 12-hour debate in the Sri Lankan Parliament over a no-confidence motion that threatened to oust him from power. The motion highlighted the tension between PM Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena and their respective parties.
122 legislators supported PM Wickremesinghe, while 76 legislators voted against him. 26 MPs were absent from the vote.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe faced the vote due to accusations of economic mismanagement and poor handling of the Buddhist-Muslim violence that broke out in central Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s economic growth rate shrinked to 3.1% in 2017 from 4.5% in 2016, reflecting poorly on PM Wickremesinghe’ s campaign promise to bring economic growth to Sri Lanka. The growth rate is the lowest in 16 years for Sri Lanka.
The Buddhist-Muslim clash referred to by the motion first began in Sri Lanka’s Kandy district in early March. The violence eventually led to a 12-day state of emergency, during which the nation’s Special Task Force (STF) was deployed. Popular social media sites like Facebook and WhatsApp were also banned during the state of emergency.
The no-confidence motion was not introduced solely due to PM Wickremesinghe’ s financial missteps and failure to prevent religious violence. Rather, proponents of the motion also sought to deepen the political instability among the Sri Lankan ruling coalition, ultimately hoping to enforce a national election in 2020.
The tension specifically lies between PM Wickremesinghe and President Sirisena. PM Wickremesinghe represents the United National Party (UNP), holding 81 of the 225 seats in the Sri Lankan Parliament. The UNP leads a group known as the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG), composed of many political parties that together make up 107 seats in the Parliament. PM Wickremesinghe relied heavily on the allies’ support in the UNFGG group in order to push him over the 113 votes he required to survive the motion.
President Sirisena, on the other hand, is a member of Sri Lanka’s Freedom Party (SLFP), which holds 42 seats in the Parliament. Wickremesinghe’s UNP and Sirisena’s SLFP were united when Wickremesinghe and Sirisena joined forces to defeat former President Rajapaksa in 2015. They then formed a ruling coalition with a comfortable majority in the Parliament.
However, the cooperation between the parties officially ended when the SLFP unanimously requested PM Wickremesinghe to resign before the Parliament votes on the no-confidence motion, according to Minister Chandima Weerakkody. President Sirisena himself allegedly urged PM Wickremesinghe to step down before the vote, though UNP sources have denied this claim.
Though PM Wickremesinghe ultimately beat the no-confidence vote, the direction of Sri Lankan politics still remains unclear, given the current antagonistic relationship between the UNP and the SLFP.
The President and Prime Minister will have to figure out a way to make amends to their relationship in order to stay in power. Additionally, PM Wickremesinghe’s UNP party will have to contend with the possibility of facing a hostile President in the Sri Lankan Parliament.
Moreover, both the President and the Prime Minister will have to deal in depth with the issues that sparked the no-confidence motion: growing economic turmoil and Buddhist-Muslim violence. Sri Lanka’s future political stability lies on the hope that the pair succeed in working collaboratively to find solutions to these current issues.