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Sri Lanka's Sirisena forms national government with opposition

Sri Lanka's newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena (C) arrives for his swearing-in ceremony in Colombo January 9, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena formed a national government incorporating the main opposition party on Sunday in a bid to push through reforms and preserve political stability, a government spokesman said.

The move came amid talk of a possible split in the opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), caused by Sirisena’s predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa gaining in popularity among opposition supporters.

After his election win in January, Sirisena formed a coalition with the United National party (UNP), but this lacked a parliamentary majority, obstructing his pledge for constitutional and electoral reforms in his first 100 days in office.

Sirisena gave posts to 26 members of the SLFP, his own former party, in his coalition government, government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told Reuters. They were given state and junior minister portfolios, boosting to 77 the number of members in the government.

“This is a national government and this is a (SLFP) party decision. We want to do all the reforms and then go to the elections,” Senaratne said.

Dayan Jayatilake, a political scientist, author and former Sri Lankan diplomat who strongly supports Rajapaksa, said the move would slow down the decision-making process.

“It will satisfy no one because UNP will feel it is being crowded out by the integration of the SLFP members into the cabinet,” he said.

Sirisena has promised to eliminate corruption and to re-enact independent commissions abolished by Rajapaksa for the judiciary, elections, police, and public service.

However, delays in Sirisena’s 100-day schedule has irked his voters while Rajapaksa, who has been out of active politics, has seen his popularity rise along with his visits to Buddhist temples and alleging that his successor’s government was out to take revenge against him.

Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky