Prime Minister

Mahinda Rajapaksa

The prime minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is deputy head of government of Sri Lanka and the most senior member of parliament in the cabinet of ministers in Sri Lanka which is collectively accountable for their policies and actions to parliament.

On 21 November 2019, Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed as the prime minister for the 3rd time, following the resignation of Ranil Wickremesinghe, upon the election victory of his brother, Gotabaya as the president of Sri Lanka.

 

Appointment

The president will appoint a member of parliament as Prime Minister, who in the president’s opinion, “is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament”. The prime minister will continue to hold office throughout the period during which the cabinet of ministers continues to function under the provisions of the constitution unless he/she resigns from the post or ceases to be a member of parliament.

Powers and role

Under the Soulbury Constitution the post of Prime Minister was created in 1947 as the head of government in the Westminster system. In 1978, under the second amendment to the Republican Constitution of 1972 much of the powers of the premiership was transferred to the executive presidency as head of government and head of the cabinet of ministers in addition to being the head of state. As a result, the prime minister became a senior most member cabinet of ministers and successor to the president. The prime minister would serve as the deputy to the president if both are from the same political party. In certain occasions, when the president is not from the majority party in parliament or a national government is formed, the prime minister would be appointed from a party different from the president’s. In such a situations the prime minister would serve as the de facto head of government. In 2015, the nineteenth amendment restored certain degree of powers to the premiership.

The prime minister is the second in the order of precedence after the president and head of the cabinet of ministers. The prime minister would be a member of the constitutional councilnational security council and the most senior member of the cabinet of ministers.

Head of the cabinet of ministers

As head of the cabinet of ministers, the prime minister has the power to:

  • Determine the number of Cabinet ministers and ministries and assignment of subjects.
  • Determine the number of non-cabinet ministers and ministries and assignment of subjects.

Principal adviser to the president

By the constitution, the prime minister holds formal power to advise the president on:

  • Appoint, dismiss, or accept the resignation of cabinet and non-cabinet ministers.
  • Change of subjects assigned to cabinet ministers.

Presidential succession

As per the constitution, if the office of president becomes vacant, the prime minister would “act in the office of President during the period between the occurrence of such vacancy and the assumption of office by the new president and shall appoint one of the other ministers of the Cabinet to act in the office of Prime Minister”. In such as situation, the office of Prime Minister is vacant or the prime minister is unable to act, the speaker shall act in the office of President.

The president may appoint the prime minister to exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of the office of President for a period during the president is unable to exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of his office due to illness, absence from Sri Lanka or any other cause

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