- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2020

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) - Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court declined on Tuesday to consider petitions filed by opposition parties and civil groups seeking to annul a presidential order dissolving Parliament because the coronavirus pandemic has prevented elections within the constitutionally mandated time.

The Supreme Court made the decision after listening to arguments from the petitioners and the government. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved Parliament on March 2. Elections were originally scheduled for April 25, but were postponed by the independent elections commission until June 20 because of the virus.

But the commission told the court that polls are still not possible on that date and it will need up to 10 weeks from the the time health authorities declare the country safe before holding elections.

The court did not explain its decision.

The constitution states that the country cannot run without a Parliament for more than three months. The petitioners also said the president has no legal authority to spend government funds after April 30 because an interim budget covers expenses only up to that date.

Rajapaksa had hoped to have a full budget for this year approved after elections.

Parliament’s term was to end in September but the president has the power to dissolve it six months ahead of schedule. Rajapaksa used this authority because his party did not have a majority.

Sri Lanka has reported 1,643 coronavirus cases including 11 deaths.

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