Veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday sworn in as Sri Lanka's eighth president.

Wickremesinghe, 73, sworn in at the parliament premises before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya.

Wickremesinghe, who took over as the Acting President after ex-President Gotabaya Rajapksa fled the country and resigned, is the first Sri Lankan president to be elected by Parliament as per the Constitution.

Late D B Wijetunga was elected uncontested in May 1993 after the demise of R Premadasa who was the then President.

Wickremesinghe was elected as Sri Lanka's President by lawmakers on Wednesday, in a rare move that could provide continuity for crucial discussions with the IMF for a bailout deal for the cash-strapped nation.

Wickremesinghe secured 134 votes in the 225-member House while his nearest rival and dissident ruling party leader Dullas Alahapperuma got 82. Leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake secured just three votes during the voting held in Parliament amidst tight security.

Cabinet formation

He faces the task of leading the country out of its economic collapse and restoring order after months of mass protests.

A Cabinet of 20-25 members will be appointed within the next few days to serve under President Wickremesinghe, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported.

Wickremesinghe's comfortable victory with the backing of the Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party showed that the Rajapaksa family's firm grip on political power despite the resignations of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa in recent weeks in the face of massive anti-government protests.

Wickremesinghe's victory could inflame the situation once again as many anti-government protesters see him as inextricably tied to the erstwhile Rajapaksa regime, blamed for the country's worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Wickremesinghe, who has been leading the crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), last week said that negotiations were nearing conclusion.

Sri Lanka needs about $5 billion in the next six months to cover basic necessities for its 22 million people, who have been struggling with long queues, worsening shortages and power cuts.

Wickremesinghe will have a mandate to serve out the rest of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in November 2024.

Wickremesinghe, who has been in Parliament for nearly five decades, was appointed as prime minister in May, nearly two years after his United National Party (UNP) was routed and failed to win a single seat in the general election held in 2020.

Widely accepted in political circles as a man who could manage the economy with far-sighted policies, Wickremesinghe is struggling to fix the economy which, he said, had collapsed at the time of his appointment in May.

Wickremesinghe, who is believed to be close to India and its leaders, has held many important posts during his career.

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