Will appoint new PM if elected president: Premadasa

Pummi Singh

Colombo, Nov 7 (PTI) Sri Lanka's ruling party presidential contender Sajith Premadasa on Thursday said he would appoint a new prime minister if he wins the next week's election, indicating that his party leader and incumbent premier Ranil Wickremesinghe will lose the office after the polls.

United National Party (UNP) leader Premadasa said that if he is elected president, Parliament would decide on a prime minister who commands the majority of the House.

Premadasa and main Opposition candidate Gotabhaya Rajapaksa are in a close race for the November 16 polls. Rajapaksa has also vowed to replace Wickremesinghe with his brother and former strongman Mahinda.

Former president Mahinda failed to win office for the third term in 2015 and a new constitutional provision on term limits bars him from running for the presidency again.

The presidential election result in Sri Lanka would not alter the composition of parliament along with the Cabinet and the post of prime minister.

Wickremesinghe last week said he would continue to be the prime minister even after Premadasa’s win.

Under the country's Constitution, the prime minister can be removed only through a vote of no confidence, his resignation or him being unseated from parliament.

The presidential powers were curbed in 2015 and the president can no longer appoint ministers or remove them without the consent of the prime minister.

The next parliamentary election is not due until August of next year, yet the president will have the option to dismiss parliament and call a snap parliamentary election after February next year.

Premadasa’s announcement on his new prime minister was made after the main Tamil party TNA extended its support to Premadasa against the main opposition runner Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

The TNA decided last week to support Premadasa thereby delivering him crucial minority votes.

Rajapaksa banks solely on the support from the 74 per cent Sinhala majority rural base.

Nearly 16 million of the country’s 21 million people are eligible to vote in the election. PTI CORR PMSPMSPMS