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A general view of the vandalised office of the Sri Lankan president inside his official residence on July 15, 2022 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. File image.
A general view of the vandalised office of the Sri Lankan president inside his official residence on July 15, 2022 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. File image.
Image: Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images

Sri Lanka's parliament accepted the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday after he fled the country, paving the way for leaders to start repairing the island's shattered politics and resume efforts to ease its economic crisis.

After suffering from crippling shortages of petrol and diesel and runaway prices of basic items such as vegetables and bread for months under the rule of Rajapaksa and his brothers, Sri Lankans are waiting for the election of a new president on Wednesday.

Until then, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will be the interim president, though protesters want him gone too. His private residence was set ablaze by demonstrators last weekend and his office was stormed this week. Nevertheless, the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party on Friday nominated him to take up the top job full time.

“From this point, we will move to constitutionally appoint a new president,” the speaker, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, said after receiving Rajapaksa's resignation letter.

Rajapaksa landed in Singapore on Thursday, having fled to the Maldives early on Wednesday on a military jet along with his wife and two security guards. Protesters occupied his home and office last weekend after surging past armed guards.

Abeywardena said he hoped to complete the process of selecting a new president within a week. Parliament would be notified formally of the vacancy at the top, with a vote for a new president set for Wednesday.

After he was sworn in by the chief justice, Wickremesinghe said he would follow the constitutional process and establish law and order in the South Asian country.

Street protests over Sri Lanka's economic meltdown simmered for months before coming to a head last weekend when hundreds of thousands of people took over government buildings in Colombo, blaming the Rajapaksa family and allies for runaway inflation, shortages of basic goods and corruption.

Serpentine queues outside fuel pumps have become common, while the government has closed schools and enforced work-from-home for office workers to conserve fuel.

The country has nearly run out of dollars for imports and has defaulted on foreign loans.

Headline inflation hit 54.6% last month, and the central bank has warned it could rise to 70% in coming months.

Sri Lanka had begun preliminary discussions with the International Monetary Fund about a potential bailout loan, but these have been interrupted by the latest government chaos.

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