Ranil Wickremesinghe to resign from UNP leadership after party’s crushing defeat in elections

Ranil Wickremesinghe. File

Ranil Wickremesinghe. File   | Photo Credit: AP

Sri Lanka’s four-time former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday decided to resign from the United National Party (UNP) leadership after 26 years at the helm following the party’s crushing defeat in the August 5 election.

The party general secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam told reporters that Mr. Wickremesinghe, 70, has decided to step down.

Mr. Kariyawasam named himself and 3 others as possible contenders to the post.

Mr. Wickremesinghe has been leading the party since December 1994.

During his 26-year tenure, Mr. Wickremesinghe was blamed for repeated election losses.


His decision followed the crushing defeat of his party at Wednesday’s parliamentary election won by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa-led Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP).

The SLPP registered a landslide victory in the August 5 general election, securing a two-thirds majority in the 225-member Parliament.

The SLPP government has 150 members in the House and the combined Opposition strength is limited to 75.

The UNP, the oldest party in the country, was reduced to fourth place nationally with less than 3 per cent of the vote.

The UNP failed to win even a single seat from the districts and secured a solitary seat in the national cumulative vote.

Mr. Wickremesinghe became Prime Minister in 1993 and lost the position 15 months later.

In 2001, he became the Prime Minister for the second time when he led the UNP to the parliamentary election.

His term was cut short in early 2004 by rival president Chandrika Kumaratunga with whom he had run an uneasy cohabitation government.

He again returned as the prime minister in January 2015 when he spearheaded the pro-democracy Opposition movement to oust Mahinda Rajapaksa and replace him with Maithripala Sirisena.

Mr. Sirisena soon turned into a foe and he sacked Mr. Wickremesinghe in October 2018 in a constitutional coup.

The Supreme Court overturned Mr. Sirisena’s action and Mr. Wickremesinghe was restored in office after 52 days during which Sri Lanka had two prime ministers.

After Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s victory in the presidential election in November last year Mr. Wickremesinghe resigned from the position.

The UNP suffered a split post-November, his deputy Sajith Premadasa forming his own party, SJB came in as the last nail on the UNP coffin.

The SJB took the larger chunk of the UNP traditional support base and Mr. Wickremesinghe lost his parliamentary seat for the first time since 1977.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2020 6:26:32 AM |

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