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Sri Lanka candidate vows to restructure government

November 26, 2014

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Sri Lankan opposition’s presidential candidate said Wednesday he would scrap the country’s virtually all-powerful presidential system within 100 days if he is elected and would govern through an all-party government in the interim.

Former Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena announced his candidacy last week after leading a revolt in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government. The main opposition United National Party has pledged to support him at the election to be held Jan. 8.

Addressing an opposition meeting, Sirisena said he would invite all political parties in the Parliament to form a government. “It will be a national government, and its timeframe will be 100 days. Its primary task will be to remove executive powers of the presidency.”

Sirisena, general secretary of the Freedom Party, the largest party in the ruling coalition, has accused Rajapaksa of abusing the presidential powers, taking the country toward autocracy and of corruption and nepotism.

The revolt is the biggest challenge to Rajapaksa since he was first elected in 2005. He has won two elections on a wave of popularity for defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels and ending a 25-year civil war. With overwhelming strength in Parliament after his re-election, he changed the constitution to scrap a two-term limit and expand presidential powers, allowing him to fill the judiciary and other offices with his appointees.

Calling an election two years early is seen as an attempt by Rajapaksa to prevent defeat if the poll was held according to schedule.

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