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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa agreed to resign after thousands of protesters stormed his official residence over the weekend amid ongoing public unrest over the country’s collapsing economy, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Parliamentary Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said Saturday the president intends to step down Wednesday “to ensure a peaceful transition of power.” His announcement came hours after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also said he would resign in light of the anti-government demonstrations that have swept the country.
Rajapaksa’s resignation is the culmination of weeks of unrest sparked by Sri Lanka’s failing economy: The country has seen months of double-digit inflation, power blackouts and severe shortages of fuel and medicine.
Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves have fallen so sharply that the nation cannot afford to pay for necessary imports: The country defaulted on its debt for the first time in its history in May.
Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe agreed to step down following an emergency meeting of political party leaders. During the meeting, politicians decided to install an interim, all-party government and hold new elections.
The president’s decision comes two months after his brother and prime minister, Mahinda, was forced to resign following violent protests in May.
The two brothers had dominated the country’s political landscape for years and gained widespread popularity among Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority after ending a decades-long civil war in 2009.
But demonstrators have blamed the Rajapaksas for the economic meltdown after the brothers opted to delay financial aid from the International Monetary Fund and instead, focused on increasing revenue from the country’s tourism industry – a key foreign currency earner that was badly hit during the coronavirus pandemic.
The government has since acknowledged its missteps and is currently in talks with the IMF.