Sri Lanka president’s group wins big majority in parliament polls

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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s party and its allies won an overwhelming two-thirds majority in a parliament election, results showed on Friday, giving him the power to enact sweeping changes to the constitution.

The governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and its allies had won 150 seats in the 225-member parliament, according to the tally published by the election commission from Wednesday’s vote.

Rajapaksa had sought a two-thirds majority in parliament to be able to restore full executive powers to the presidency, which he says are necessary to implement his agenda to make the tiny island economically and militarily secure.

He is likely to install his older brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as the next prime minister. The brothers are best known for crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils during the elder Rajapaksa’s presidency in 2009.

On a congratulatory phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, which is keen to check Chinese influence on its southern neighbour, Mahinda Rajapaksa vowed to deepen ties between the two countries.

“With the strong support of the people of Sri Lanka, I look forward to working with you closely to further enhance the long-standing cooperation between our two countries,” he told Modi. “Sri Lanka and India are friends and relations.”

The tourism-dependent nation of 21 million people has been struggling economically since deadly Islamist militant attacks on hotels and churches last year followed by lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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