Sri Lanka’s president dissolved parliament on Friday, a government spokesman said, in an effort to consolidate power and push through political reforms. Two government officials said elections will be held to elect a new parliament on 17 August. The president, Maithripala Sirisena, who was elected on 8 January, needs parliamentary support to push through reforms he has promised, including limits on the powers of the executive presidency. The timing of the parliamentary elections is also important. The United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to release a report in September on human rights abuses during the final phase of the war against the Tamil insurgency in 2009.
The report could affect an attempt by Sirisena’s predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa to stage a comeback. His supporters say he may bid for the prime ministership.
One of Sri Lanka’s key parties, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), is split between Sirisena and Rajapaksa, who defeated the Tamil separatists in 2009. For the moment, political analysts say, the split has given the prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) an edge in the election.