Sri Lankan Parliament Selects Veteran Politician as New President

Sri Lanka’s parliament has chosen six-time Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the troubled island nation’s new president Wednesday.

The 73-year-old Wickremesinghe received 134 votes in the 225-member legislature in Wednesday’s secret ballot, with 82 votes going to Dullas Alahapperuma, a former journalist who has held various government ministries as a member of the ruling SLPP party. Anura Dissanayake, the leader of the left-wing JVP party, received only three votes.

The vote comes a week after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka amid a popular and often violent uprising sparked by a months-long economic crisis that has left it unable to import food, fuel or medicines due to its depleted foreign exchange reserves.

His departure and subsequent resignation effectively ended his family’s two-decade hold on Sri Lanka. His brothers Mahinda and Basil quit their posts as prime minister and finance minister, respectively, several weeks earlier amid rising anti-government demonstrations.

Wickremesinghe will serve out the remainder of Rajapaksa’s tenure, which ends in November 2024. He was appointed prime minister in May after Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation, and has been negotiating with the International Monetary Fund on a multi-billion dollar bailout package.

But protesters have accused Wickremesinghe of being too close to the Rajapaksa family and have demanded his resignation as well.

Wednesday’s vote is the first time Sri Lanka’s parliament has chosen a new president since 1993, when then-Prime Minister D.B. Wijetunga was unanimously elected to succeed President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was assassinated.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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