Updated Jul 13, 2022 - World

Sri Lanka declares state of emergency after president flees country

Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (C) addresses the nation a during the Sri Lanka's 74th Independence Day celebrations in Colombo on February 4.
Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (C) during a February speech in Colombo. Photo: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP via Getty Images

Sri Lankan protesters stormed the prime minister's office in the capital Colombo Wednesday after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country following months of demonstrations over the island nation's economic crisis, per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Rajapaksa's exit on Tuesday prompted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to announce a nationwide state of emergency and impose a curfew in the western province as he was appointed acting president. Security forces deployed tear gas as thousands of demonstrators rallied outside Wickremesinghe's office.

  • Rajapaksa's departure from Sri Lanka ends a family dynasty that has for decades ruled the now-bankrupt country of 22 million.

The big picture: The 73-year-old president flew to the Maldives' capital Malé with his wife, Ioma Rajapaksa, and two bodyguards following the unrest, according to outlets including AP.

  • Protesters have occupied the presidential palace for days. They're also occupying other government buildings and broke into Wickremesinghe's private residence on Saturday, setting it on fire while calling on Rajapaksa to resign.
  • The demonstrators have said they'll continue to occupy the buildings until all leaders resign, including Wickremesinghe.

What to watch: Sri Lanka's constitution stipulates that the prime minster should step in if the president resigns. Although Wickremesinghe is now acting president, he has agreed to resign at a date yet to be announced, per the BBC.

  • Constitutional experts say the parliamentary speaker should fulfill the role until an election is held.

Yes, but: Speaker "Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena is an ally of the Rajapaksas, and it is unclear whether the public would accept his authority," the BBC notes.

Go deeper: Sri Lankan protesters push out their president

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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