Ranil Wickremesinga, “the fox” of Sri Lankan politics, elected president

It was a lifelong ambition. The interim president, Ranil Wickremesinga, was finally elected head of state by Sri Lanka’s parliament on Wednesday 20 July, despite fierce opposition from the streets. Thanks to the support of his predecessor’s clan, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was forced to resign by the Citizens’ Movement last week, Ranil Wickremesinga secured an overwhelming majority. Elections that represent the establishment’s victory on the street and testify to the great influence that the Rajapaksa family holds in political life.

However, the main opposition candidate, Sajith Premadasa, in favor of Dullas Alahapperuma, withdrew from the ranks of Rajapaksa’s party but is seen as less suspicious. This front wasn’t enough to counter Ranil Wickremesinga, whose ability to maneuver inside the secrets of power regularly earned him the nickname “the Fox” by Sri Lankans.

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“Parliament is my whole life, I have spent forty-five years there”He said the new president, addressing the House of Representatives after his victory. Mr Wickremesinga’s assumption of the highest office, Wednesday, denotes the ultimate goal of his political career. The 73-year-old belonged to one of the great political dynasties of Sri Lanka. He was only 27 when he entered the government of his uncle, Junius Jaywardene, as deputy foreign minister, asserts Austin Fernando, defense minister from 2001 to 2003, under Ranil Wickremesinga, minister six times since the 1990s, without ever. Termination of one of his states.

“Hustler in a suit and tie”

This victory also marks a stunning political comeback. In the 2020 parliamentary elections, his party, the United National Party, one of the oldest in the country, was decimated and failed to win a single seat in parliament. Therefore, many of Mr. Wickremesinga’s critics accuse him of lacking democratic legitimacy. “The people may question his election from a moral point of view, but he was elected according to the provisions of the Constitution.”Austin Fernando notes.

“His political life has been based entirely on strategic agreements”Regrets, for its part, Harini Amarasuriya, the deputy of the National People’s Authority. This penchant for political deals also earned Mr. Wickremesinga the nickname “Ranelle’s Deal” by the protesters.

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Ranil Wickremesinga will rule until the end of Mr Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in November 2024, and he must appoint a Prime Minister to form the government. “I don’t need to remind you of the state our country is in.He told Parliament. People don’t expect the same old politics from usAnd the he added. They ask us to be united. » The new head of state will take on the difficult task of pulling Sri Lanka out of its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948. And this is in an explosive context. “He is an unpopular and mistrustful leader: this will make his task all the more delicate”warns Bhavani Fonseka, research associate at the Center for Policy Alternatives, a Sri Lankan think tank.

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