Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has defeated a no-confidence motion in the parliament with a 46 vote majority after a 12-hour debate.
Wednesday’s vote saw 122 legislators back Wickremesinghe, while 76 MPs voted to remove him. Twenty-six members of parliament were absent during the vote.
The no-confidence motion was initiated by the Joint Opposition group in the parliament led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
However, only 55 opposition MPs, including four members from the ruling SLFP, signed the document that was handed over to the speaker seeking the no-confidence vote. Interestingly, Rajapaksa did not sign the document.
The United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) led by Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) has 107 MPs in the 225-member parliament. The UNP, with 81 MPs, relied heavily on the support of allies from the UNFGG to survive the vote.
Wickremesinghe needed the support of 113 MPs to survive the no-confidence motion.
Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from the capital, Colombo, said the prime minister might have survived the vote but “the government has had a crippling blow, weakened by this entire process.
“The fractionalism that has crept in has been building up over the last three years, since the national unity government of the president’s and the prime minister’s parties came together,” she added.
“At the root of this no-confidence motion were divisions capitalised on by the joint opposition.”
She said that at the end of Wednesday’s debate, Wickremesinghe thanked his supporters and promised changes.
Wickremesinghe has to heal the cracks in the current ruling coalition in the wake of the poor showing in the recent local government elections.
His position has been weakened by the rift at the highest levels of the coalition between the UNP and the SLFP, which fought the local elections separately, in which they were trounced by the Rajapaksa-backed opposition parties.
Wickremesinghe has been the leader of the UNP for 24 years and is the longest-serving leader in the history of the centre-right party.
Owing to his unpopularity in rural electorates, dominated by Rajapaksa, Wickremesinghe did not contest the 2010 and 2014 presidential elections, choosing to back a common candidate instead.