Mahinda Rajapaksa with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. (Source: Official Twitter Handle Of Maithripala Sirisena) 

Top Court Thwarts Sri Lanka President's Snap Election Plan

(Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka’s top court suspended an order by President Maithripala Sirisena to dissolve the island nation’s parliament and call a snap general election after Ranil Wickremesinghe mounted a legal challenge against his ouster as prime minister.

The Supreme Court granted interim relief until Dec. 7, staying the Presidential notice suspending parliament and halting preparations for the poll. The court’s order on Tuesday means that Sri Lanka’s parliament will reconvene on Nov. 14 as earlier decided by the president. He was acting in response to mounting pressure to resolve the political crisis since his surprise dismissal of Wickremesinghe on Oct. 26.

“We will be in parliament tomorrow and we will show the majority, that we are the legitimate government in Sri Lanka,” Wickremesinghe told reporters in Colombo following the court’s decision.

Sirisena on Friday dissolved the 225-seat parliament and called for elections on Jan. 5 and a new legislature to reconvene on Jan. 17. He fired Wickremesinghe, who served since 2015 as prime minister in a unity government with the president, and attempted to install Sri Lanka’s former strongman president Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister.

The call for a fresh election came after it seemed unlikely Sirisena could prove a majority of lawmakers to support his newly appointed prime minister. The move drew strong international condemnation and stalled about $2 billion worth of projects and grants.

Sirisena said in a statement on Sunday that he dissolved parliament because he feared the eruption of “widespread violence” when the house was due to reconvene on Nov. 14. He also referred to allegations of bribery by saying members of the legislature now had “price tags” on them.

On Sunday, Rajapaksa, who was previously a member of Sirisena’s party, announced he was joining the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, or People’s Front, the party he created to defeat the Sirisena and Wickremesinghe coalition in local elections earlier this year. State-run media said the two leaders were planning to fight the election as an alliance.

Regional powers China and India have been watching the events closely while the U.S said Sirisena’s moves jeopardized Sri Lanka’s economic progress and international reputation.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.