Gotabaya Rajapaksa is set to resign as president of Sri Lanka, paving the way for a successor to be appointed of a successor, the government has confirmed.
A statement from the office of the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said “Rajapaksa has officially informed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that he will be resigning”. The president had already confirmed unofficially that he would be stepping down but this held no legal basis.
A new president will be elected by MPs on July 20th, with no immediate plans for a public vote on the country’s leadership. Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis since achieving independence and policymakers claim it is not the right time for the political distraction of an election.
Rajapaksa’s position became untenable last week as protesters stormed the presidential palace. The president had already been removed from the palace for his own protection, and his whereabouts are still undisclosed.
Reports and speculation claim that Rajapaksa may have already left the country, although these claims remain unconfirmed. It is unclear whether he plans to make a personal appearance prior to leaving his post.
The president had been facing pressure to step down for months, with anger escalating as food and fuel supplies ran short across the country. Rajapaksa had stood defiant in the face of the demands, but eventually had to admit defeat as it became clear the tide of public opinion could not be turned back in his favor.
Part of a political dynasty in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa has been president since November 2019.