New Delhi (CNN)What was meant to be a simple uneventful local election has sparked uncertainty over the future of Sri Lanka's political landscape, after a newly formed party led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa swept to victory.
Sri Lanka government in crisis after comeback of ex-leader
The return of Rajapaksa to public life marks an unlikely turnaround for the two-time former president, who was unceremoniously voted out of office in 2015, amid allegations of corruption, nepotism and war crimes.
Considered a military hero among supporters, 72-year-old Rajapaksa was first elected president in 2005 and returned to office in 2010, a year after government forces routed Tamil rebel groups to end the country's brutal 25-year civil war. His surprise victory last Sunday now threatens to upend a still fragile political system marred by years of conflict and instability.
Addressing reporters at a press conference in the wake of the result, Rajapaksa called for the immediate dissolution of parliament and a snap national election.
"The victory is a clear indication that Sri Lankans are fed up of inaction and want to rebuild Sri Lanka," said Rajapaksa in a message posted on his official Facebook page.
By effectively transforming the local election into a referendum on the country's ruling party, Rajapaksa has positioned himself as the figurehead of growing anti-government movement.
Rajapaksa's campaign targeted the government's middling economic record, and its attempt to impose higher taxes, promising Sri Lankans a return to more confident, outward facing rule. Rajapaksa's supporters also criticized Sri lankan President Maithripala Sirisena for selling off national assets, including a controversial 99-year lease granted to China for the Hambantota port.
Though parliamentary elections are not scheduled for another two years, Rajapaksa's comeback comes at a perilous time for the country's first postwar national government, who have been stymied by infighting and accusations of political inaction.
Led by Sirisena, the current administration was formed in 2015 with the help of a disparate coalition of minority groups, promising a more decentralized, transparent form of governance that would usher in a new post-war era of prosperity for the island nation.
Instead, Sirisena, a former health minister under Rajapaksa, has struggled to maintain unity among his coalition partners while attempting to implement his ambitious reform agenda.