Sri Lanka's highest court ruled on Tuesday that President Mahinda Rajapaksa's new six-year term in office won't start until almost the end of the year.
Rajapaksa swept to victory in the Jan. 26 election after defeating his former army chief and one-time ally Sarath Fonseka. Rajapaksa called the snap poll two years before his first mandate was up, trying to cash in on a wave of popularity after the government's crushing defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels last year.
Although Rajapaksa was declared the winner on Jan. 27, the country's Supreme Court said in its ruling that the new six-year term will start on Nov. 19, according to a statement from the president's office.
The reasoning of the court's decision was not made available. Constitutional expert Rohan Edirisinghe said the Supreme Court does not make public its rulings on government referrals. However, he said the court has overruled Rajapaksa attorneys' argument that he be allowed to start his new term from November 2011, when his first term was to end.
The opposition has rejected the results of the election and says it will challenge them in court.
It has also accused the government of a campaign of threats, intimidation and illegal imprisonment of its supporters and activists.
The government, however, said that the opposition had been planning to organize a coup with the help of former army officers loyal to Fonseka. A number of serving officers, which it said were considered to be a threat to national security, were fired.