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The Latest: Sirisena says he wanted to avoid violence

Pro- democratic Sri Lankans take part in a candle light vigil in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. The crowd demanded the restoration of democracy after President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Latest on Sri Lanka’s political crisis (all times local):

10:35 p.m.

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena says he decided to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections to avoid possible violence in Parliament in the event a vote was taken to decide on who commands the majority support to become prime minister.

Sirisena in his address to the nation Sunday said he heard stories of possible violence in Parliament that could even result in deaths and clashes spreading around the country after Speaker Karu Jayasuriya announced he was going to call for a vote to see whether Sirisena’s choice for prime minister, former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, commanded enough support.

The crisis began Oct. 26 when Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and appointed Rajapaksa in his place. Wickremesinghe said his sacking was unconstitutional and still occupies the official residence.

Sirisena dissolved Parliament after his attempts to secure the backing of 113 members in the 225-member Parliament failed.

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8:50 p.m.

Sri Lanka’s former strongman and current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has left his longtime political party and joined another in a move that could weaken the country’s president.

Rajapaksa on Sunday joined the Sri Lanka People’s Front, a party of which he was shadow leader for months.

His move could weaken President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party, of which Rajapaksa had been a longtime member. A large number of SLFP members are likely to join Rajapaksa because he has the biggest following among them.

Sirisena last month sacked his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and replaced him with Rajapaksa, hoping to cash in on Rajapaksa’s popular support.

Sirisena and Wickremesinghe, who were leading traditionally opposed parties, were part of an awkward coalition government until Wickremesinghe’s sacking on Oct. 26.

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