The Sri Lankan Parliament on Wednesday approved the controversial amendments to the 1978 Constitution proposed by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, including lifting the two-term limit on the post of President, with more than the required two-thirds majority.

Mr. Rajapaksa can now run for office of President for a third time when elections are held in November 2016.

Mr. Rajapaksa went ahead with the bill despite serious objections raised by the opposition and the civil society that it could lead to election of President in perpetuity and pave way for dictatorship. However, the ruling combine argued the changes would lead to greater stability.

In a House of 225 members, 161 voted in favour and 17 against the bill. Crossovers by several members of the main opposition, the United National Party (UNP), in recent days ensured smooth sailing for the bill.

The UNP stayed away from the debate and voting and staged a demonstration outside Parliament against it. The ruling combine organised a counter demonstration.

Besides removal of the term limit, the amendments require the President to attend Parliament once in at least three months. It has been projected by the ruling combine as a measure to bring the President into the parliamentary process.

The Constitutional Council to appoint persons to high offices would be replaced with a Parliamentary Council.

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