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Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has overturned President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to dissolve parliament and ordered a halt to preparations for snap elections.

The decision on Tuesday was the latest in a protracted political crisis triggered by Sirisena’s surprise move on October 26 to fire Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replace him with Mahinda Rajapaksa, a controversial former president.

Both men, however, are claiming the post of prime minister, and Wickremesinghe is holed up in the official residence and refusing to step down.

The court ruling came a day after political parties petitioned the court against the president’s decision last week to dissolve parliament and call for a snap vote on January 5.

The three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice Nalin Perera read out the landmark decision to a packed court in the capital, Colombo.

“[This decision] effectively says the court believes … the president has acted unconstitutionally in dissolving the parliament,” Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Colombo, said.

Following the ruling, the parliament is now expected to reconvene on Wednesday and go ahead with a vote to test if Rajapaksa is able to summon a majority in the 225-member legislature.

Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) had “vehemently” rejected the sacking of the parliament and demanded a House vote to prove that the deposed leader still had the backing of at least 113 legislators.

Hours before Sirisena dissolved parliament on Friday, his coalition had admitted it could not muster enough parliamentary support for the president’s nominee.

“If that vote goes ahead in parliament on Wednesday, and Wickremesinghe is reconfirmed prime minister, that means Rajapaksa is out after having been appointed very controversially by the president,” Al Jazeera’s Smith said.

“It is a very difficult time, particularly for the president,” he added.  

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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