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Sri Lanka's disputed government admits it lacks majority

President Maithripala Sirisena named authoritarian former president Mahinda Rajapakse as prime minister after sacking Ranil Wickremesinghe on 26 October.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena looks on as he arrives at Tribhuvan International Airport to attend the 4th Summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in Kathmandu on 29 August 2018. Picture: AFP

COLOMBO - Two weeks into a showdown between rival prime ministers, the Sri Lankan president's party admitted for the first time Friday that it does not have a majority to get its candidate through a parliamentary vote of confidence.

President Maithripala Sirisena named authoritarian former president Mahinda Rajapakse as prime minister after sacking Ranil Wickremesinghe on 26 October.

Wickremesinghe has since refused to leave the premier's official residence however amid a simmering constitutional struggle.

The United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said Rajapakse still needed at least eight more votes in the 225 member assembly to reach the required 113 to win a vote.

"At the moment we have 104 or 105 MPs," Rambukwella told reporters. He said the Sirisena-Rajapakse group needed "crossover" legislators.

Sirisena's party has never previously acknowledged opposition claims it does not have the necessary votes to back the sacking of Wickremesinghe.

Sirisena has suspended parliament to give himself more time to engineer defections. Several legislators have said they were offered millions of dollars to defect and at least eight have jumped to Sirisena's side.

Under international pressure to allow a vote on the rival premiers, Sirisena agreed twice to lift the suspension. His latest order calls for parliament to meet on 14 November.

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