Colombo: In a move that is certain to deepen the ongoing political crisis in Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday night dissolved the Parliament and decided to hold snap election on January 5, 2019.

Sirisena signed an official gazette notification dismissing the 225-member Assembly in the island nation. However, the dissolution is expected to be challenged in court, according to reports. Before dissolving the Parliament, Sirisena inducted more ministers into the Cabinet.

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"The election is likely to be held in early January," a minister, who did not want to be named, was quoted as saying by AFP.

The general elections in Sri Lanka should not be held until 2020.

The political crisis in the country began when Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and named former President Mahinda Rajapakse as the premier on October 26. However, Wickremesinghe has refused to leave the official residence.

"This is a gross violation of the constitution," Harsha De Silva, a lawmaker in Wickremesinghe's party, told Reuters, speaking on Sirisena's decision to suspend Parliament.

According to Reuters, independent legal experts opined that the Parliament could be dissolved only in early 2020, after four-and-half-years of the term.

Sirisena's United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) said it was eight short of proving majority for Rajapakse in the Assembly.

“At the moment we have 104 or 105 MPs,” UPFA spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters.

According to an AFP count, Wickremesinghe and his allies have 120 MPs while Rajapakse and Sirisena have 104. The speaker, the 225th member, is neutral.

People's Liberation Front (JVP), which termed Wickremesinghe's dismissal as unconstitutional, said the dissolution of Parliament is "illegal".

“Dissolving parliament at this time is illegal and goes against the constitution,” JVP general secretary Tilvin Silva told reporters.

On Thursday, Wickremesinghe thanked his supporters for not letting Sri Lanka to be plunged into "darkness of dictatorship".

“In extraordinary numbers and with extraordinary courage you came out on to the streets, you spoke out. You have not let this country be plunged into the darkness of dictatorship. For this inspiring effort, I want to thank everyone who has risen to fight for democracy and justice,” Wickremesinghe said.

Amid the political crisis, the European Union (EU), in a joint statement with Norway and Switzerland said Sri Lanka's international reputation could "damage" if Parliament is not reconvened. This statement came before the dissolution of the Parliament.

“Any further delay could damage Sri Lanka’s international reputation and deter investors,” the statement said.