10/23/2020, 00.00
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Colombo approves Constitutional amendment: more powers for the president

Approved by a large Parliament majority, it abolishes a 2015 constitutional law passed to stem the excesses of the executive. The Rajapaksa family's dominion over national politics strengthened. The Catholic community, civil society and even Buddhist faithful oppose the move.

Colombo (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Yesterday evening Parliament approved the 20th amendment to the Constitution by a large majority, which concentrates power in the hands of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The measure abolishes the constitutional law passed five years ago by the Sirisena administration to stem the excesses of the executive.

The overwhelming victory of the ruling party in the parliamentary elections in August allowed the amendment to be approved. Now Rajapaksa will be able to take direct control of one or more ministries, appoint and fire ministers, and choose members of "independent" authorities, such as the electoral authority.

The president can also dissolve Parliament - in office for five years - after two and a half years of parliamentary term; previously it was only possible in the last six months. With the constitutional reform, the ban on taking up public offices for those with dual citizenship is also cancelled. The change opens the doors of Parliament to a brother of Rajapaksa, who is also a US citizen.

The Rajapaksa family dominates national politics. Mahinda, Gotabaya's brother, is the current prime minister; he had already been president from 2005 to 2015. Three other family members are ministers and one is a parliamentarian.

The amendment is opposed by opposition and civil society movements, which fear the cancellation of a series of democratic reforms introduced in 2015. Catholic faithful, but also believers of the Buddhist majority, maintain that the amendment promotes authoritarianism, weakens parliament, reduces the independence of the judiciary and institutions and makes it more difficult for citizens to be part of the legislative process and oppose the government.

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