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New Sri lanka Elections Set Dec. 5

Facing almost certain defeat in a planned no-confidence vote, Sri Lankan President Chandirka Kumaratnga dissolved the nation's parliament early Thursday. She set fresh elections for December 5.

The Presidential announcement after midnight Wednesday comes hours before a scheduled confidence vote in the Parliament. A total of nine defections from Kumaratunga's ruling People's Alliance party left the coalition government without a majority in the country's 225-seat legislature.

A government spokesman, Ariya Rubesinghe, said the decision was taken jointly by coalition party leaders. "She has met all the party leaders of the coalition of the People's Alliance, and they have come to a conclusion that the best option will be dissolving the parliament. Now she has done it," the spokesman said.

He said details of president's plan and her views on the dissident members of her party would appear in local newspapers Thursday morning.

Leaders of the main opposition United National Party were unavailable for comment after the late night announcement. On Wednesday they had said they put forward the no-confidence motion in order to force the President into forming what they called a government of National Reconciliation. They had also said that any attempt to block the vote would be met with massive protests.

During a very similar situation in July, President Kumaratunga suspended parliament rather than face a confidence vote. That suspension was followed by large protests and violent clashes between opposition supporters and police. Sri Lanka's lawmakers only returned to work last month after the government formed a temporary alliance with a Marxist party.

Sri Lankans last went to the polls one year ago, and the President was legally prevented from dissolving parliament before the first anniversary of elections passed on Wednesday. Her government's popularity dropped significantly in that election, which was marred by violence and allegations of corruption.

The President is elected separately from the Parliament in Sri Lanka and Mrs. Kumaratunga has five years left in her term. She will be forced to work with whatever new group comes to power in December.

Like the previous governments,President Kumaratunga has failed to make peace with Tamil separatists whose guerrilla war has claimed over 64-thousand lives in 18 years.

Along with the war,Sri Lanka also faces increasing financial uncertainty with economists expecting growth to be at its lowest levels in 30 years. Unfortunately, fresh elections seem unlikely to bring the political stability this island so desperately needs.