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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned on Thursday after feeling the pinch amid an economic crisis in the country.
Sri Lankan Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeyweardana made the announcement on Friday. The country’s parliament will meet on Saturday to begin the process of selecting a new president. The country hopes to have a new president within the next seven days.
Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka on Wednesday after protesters invaded his home and other government offices. Protesters accuse Rajapaksa of stealing money from the government for years. They also accuse his administration of mismanaging the economy, causing it to collapse. Rajapaksa has acknowledged that some of his policies contributed to the collapse.
Months of protests reached a frenzied peak over the weekend when protesters stormed the president’s home and office and the official residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. On Wednesday, they seized Wickremesinghe’s office.
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Protesters had initially vowed to keep these places until a new government is in place, but the movement changed tack on Thursday, apparently concerned that any escalation in violence could undermine their message in the wake of the clashes the previous night in front of Parliament which left dozens injured.
Rajapaksa’s replacement would be president for the rest of his term, which ends in 2024. The new leader could potentially choose a new prime minister, whom parliament would have to approve.
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The country of around 22 million people is experiencing a severe shortage of foreign exchange, which has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine. The shortage has plunged the island into its worst financial situation in 70 years.
Sri Lanka has not received fuel deliveries in recent weeks, forcing school closures and limiting petrol and diesel for essential services. Residents skip meals to queue for hours for the scarce fuel.
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And the country’s inflation levels are skyrocketing. that of Sri Lanka inflation reached 54.6% in June.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.