Sri Lanka PM set to lose job after presidential vote

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe looks set to lose his job after next week’s presidential election, with the two leading candidates declaring Thursday they will dump him.

Main opposition candidate Gotabhaya Rajapakse and Sajith Premadasa from Wickremesinghe’s ruling United National Party (UNP) are in a close race ahead of the November 16 polls and both said they would appoint their own PMs if they win.

"I will appoint a new prime minister who can command the majority of parliament," Premadasa, 52, said in a televised address on Thursday.

His remarks appeared to seal the fate of Wickremesinghe, 70, who is nominally the leader of the UNP but faces a revolt within the ranks of the party hierarchy.

Rajapakse earlier also vowed to replace Wickremesinghe -- who has been plagued by accusations of cronyism and incompetence amid his failure to prosecute politicians accused of corruption -- with his brother Mahinda.

Rajapakse is a former secretary to the defence ministry between 2005 and 2015 when his brother was president.

Under a recent constitutional amendment, the office of prime minister was given extensive powers to decide on cabinet appointments and to run the day-to-day affairs of the government.

Mahinda Rajapakse failed to win office for the third term in 2015 and a new constitutional provision on term limits bars him from running for the presidency again.

Premadasa, the son of president Ranasinghe Premadasa who was assassinated by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels in 1993, has called for a clean up of his own party and vowed to purge key ministers of Wickremesinghe’s government.

Some 15.9 million people are eligible to vote in next week’s election.