Rajapakse, Mahinda

Rajapakse or Rajapaksa, Mahinda mähĭn´dä räjäpäk´sə [key], 1945–, Sri Lankan political leader. A lawyer from a political family, he was first elected to parliament in 1970 as member of the Sri Lanka Freedom party (SLFP). From 1994 to 2001 he served as minister of labor and of fisheries. Rajapakse became opposition leader in 2002 and prime minister in 2004. In 2005 he was elected president of Sri Lanka, having formed an alliance with Marxist and Buddhist nationalists and advocating a harder line with rebel Tamils. In 2010, after the defeat (2009) of the Tamil rebels, he called an early presidential election and was reelected he subsequently secured the abolition of presidential term limits. His family dominated the government, heading the defense and economic development ministries as well as parliamentary speakership. His party's impeachment and removal of the chief justice in 2013 was seen as a further consolidation of power and a sign of increasing authoritarianism. In 2015 he lost an early presidential contest to Maithripala Sirisena, a former member of his government, who attacked the concentration of power in the presidency and the influence of Rajapakse's family. His subsequent attempt in Aug., 2015, to return to power as prime minister failed when the SLFP placed second in parliamentary elections.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.