Sri Lanka parliament votes to extend state of emergency until after elections

[JURIST] The Sri Lankan Parliament [official website] voted [press release] Tuesday to extend the country's current state of emergency until after next month's parliamentary elections. The measure, passed by a vote of 93-24 [Hindu report], was opposed by the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana, the country's main opposition party. President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] dissolved parliament [JURIST report] in February to prepare for the April elections, but, under the Sri Lankan Constitution [text], the president's emergency powers can only be extended for one month at a time, and the extension must be approved by parliament within ten days of the president's declaration. Rajapaksa announced last week that he would reconvene parliament [JURIST report] to seek an extension of emergency powers, claiming that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elan (LTTE) [JURIST news archive] still pose a threat, despite an end to the country's decades-long civil war last May.

Last month, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court rejected a petition [JURIST reports] to release opposition presidential candidate and former general Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile], who is being held over an alleged coup plot. It is believed that Rajapaksa called early parliamentary elections to harness momentum from the presidential election in January, in which he defeated Fonseka, to gain more seats in parliament for his political party, Freedom Alliance. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled last month that Rajapaksa's second term [JURIST report] will begin in November. The apparent victor in January's elections, Rajapaksa defeated Fonseka by an official margin of 18 points, winning re-election to a second term in office. Fonseka has disputed [Al Jazeera report] the results, saying violence and vote-counting irregularities invalidated the outcome. Sri Lanka has been under a state of emergency for most of the past 27 years.

 

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