A special gazette notice said Wickremesinghe declared the state of emergency in the interests of public security, the protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community.
Sri Lanka's parliament is scheduled to elect a new president on July 20 following the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who flew to Singapore via the Maldives, amid a severe economic crisis. Nominations for the presidential candidates will be called on Tuesday.
The next interim president will have to take charge of the nation until 2024, when general elections are expected. One of the strongest-sounding names for the job is opposition leader Sanjith Premadasa, who came second in the 2019 presidential election.
A faction of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the formation of the deposed Rajapaksa, holds the majority of parliamentary seats and announced that it will support the candidacy of Wickremesinghe, who served as prime minister until he took office on July 15. Another SLPP faction supports Dullas Alahapperuma, a party dissident.
For months, this country has suffered from shortages of medicine, food and fuel. This situation was caused in part by foreign debt, wrong economic policies, and the consequences of the pandemic on tourism.
The economic crisis has sparked protests across the island since the end of March, when thousands of people began taking to the streets to demand Rajapaksa's resignation. On July 9, hundreds of protesters stormed the official residences of Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe, forcing them to flee and announce their resignation.