(MENAFN - NewsIn.Asia) Colombo, October 27 (newsin.asia): Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's decision to sack Ranil Wickremesinghe from the Premiership on Friday was meant to help his candidate, Mahinda Rajapaksa, get defectors from Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) and the United National Front (UNF) to be able to form a government, political sources say.
Ensconced in power as Prime Minister, Rajapaksa will be able to attract MPs wanting to be part of the government, while out of power Wickremesinghe will find himself handicapped.
On the other hand, if Rajapaksa is not Prime Minister, and Wickemesinghe is, the latter will have the power to attract or retain the loyalty of MPs. This was shown clearly when Prime Minister Wickremesinghe faced a Vote of No Confidence in April 2015 and defeated it.
It was to avoid a repetition of that situation that Sirisena appointed Rajapaksa Prime Minister brazenly, despite the possibility of being accused of acting illegally and unconstitutionally as per the 19 th.Amendment.
Rajapaksa's ability to attract MPs is enhanced also by the fact that he is President Sirisena's candidate. In combination with Executive President Sirisena, Prime Minister Rajapaksa will be a formidable political force both inside and outside parliament.
The duo are more than a match for Wickremesinghe, who is now out of power and unable to use the levers of power to dispense favors.
Rajapaksa has a vote bank of 95 MPs of the United Peoples' Progressive Alliance (UPFA). But this group is still smaller than the one with Wickremesinghe, as the latter's UNF has 106 MPs.
Thus, Rajapaksa needs 18 more MPs to give him a simple majority of 113 in the House of 225 members.
He has to get 18 when he goes in for a vote of confidence in the House. Parliament is now set to meet on November 5 for the budget. But it could meet earlier too.
Rajapaksa already got two UNP MPs on Friday – Vasantha Senanayake and Ananda Aluthgamage. More are expected to defect in the coming days as there is an anti-Wickrmesinghe group in the UNP and UNF.
Additionally, there are Indian Origin Tamil and Muslim parties which have a policy of always being on the side of the government irrespective of the party in power.
Ranil Wickremssinghe,, Maithripala Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa
According to Wickemesinghe, however, what the President did was unconstitutional because as per Art 46 (2) of the 19 th. Amendment of the constitution passed in 2015, the President cannot sack a Prime Minister who enjoys majority support in parliament.
Wickremesinghe asserted that he has majority support in parliament.
He pointed out that as per the 19 th. Amendment, a Prime Minister will go only if he himself resigns or ceases to be a member of parliament. He has neither resigned from the Premiership nor has he ceased to be a member of parliament, Wickremesinghe pointed out.
But this is contested by the President's men. They point out that Article 42 (4) of the constitution clearly says that 'the President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament, who, in the President's opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.'
And in Sirisena's opinion, Wickremesinghe is not likely to command the confidence of parliament and has therefore lost the right to be Prime Minister.
Although Wickremesinghe can go to the Supreme Court challenging the President's decision on constitutional grounds, he has decided not to because the ultimate proof of his claim will have to be given in terms of actual parliamentary support in a Vote of Confidence.
Wickremesinghe is confident of proving majority support.
Meanwhile, the US and UK have appealed to the powers-that-be in Sri Lanka to act according to the constitution. It is clear that they do not approve of the President's action.
(The featured image at the top shows President Sirisena appointing Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister)