Sri Lanka: Mahinda Rajapaksa, former president, named as PM

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KANDY, SRI LANKA- AUGUST 14 : Former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa attends his party's final day of election campaign rally on August 14, 2015 in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's Election Commission has scheduled the polls on August 17, 2015, after Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the parliament on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has named his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the country’s new prime minister after the collapse of the governing coalition.

He sacked Premier Ranil Wickramasinghe after the president’s United People’s Freedom Alliance party (UPFA) quit the government.

Mr Sirisena beat Mr Rajapaksa in the 2015 presidential election.

Opponents say the move is unconstitutional.

Mr Wickramasinghe helped the president triumph in the 2015 poll, but the pair reportedly clashed in cabinet recently over government plans to lease a port to India.

The prime minister and his United National Party (UNP) came to power promising accountability for alleged atrocities committed in Sri Lanka’s civil war and during Mr Rajapaksa’s administration.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera called his leader’s sacking “an anti-democratic coup”, saying Mr Wickramasinghe remained leader as he could not constitutionally be removed by the president.

And Cabinet spokesman Raitha Senaratne told the BBC that Mr Wickramasinghe remained the country’s prime minister.

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