The Sri Lankan speaker of parliament accepted a resignation letter from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, having verified its authenticity after the document was flown from Singapore late on Thursday, he told reporters.
Rajapaksa fled the country Wednesday amid protests and calls for his resignation. He initially fled to the Maldives and arrived in Singapore on Thursday. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been sworn in as interim president until a new one is selected.
Nominations for the post of president will be received on Tuesday and members of parliament are due to vote the following day, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana's office said in a brief statement.
"I have accepted the resignation. From this point, we will move to constitutionally appoint a new president," Abeywardana said on Friday. The process to find a new president would take seven days, he added.
News of Rajapaksa's resignation was first sent by e-mail to the speaker before a hard copy was delivered.
German Foreign Office releases statement on situation in Sri Lanka
On Friday, Germany's Federal Foreign Office in Berlin released a statement on the ongoing tumult in Sri Lanka calling on all parties, "to engage constructively in resolving the political crisis." Berlin said it was "essential for human rights to be protected and the concerns of minorities have to be taken into account during this process."
The statement also spoke of the necessity of finding a "sustainable solution" for Sri Lanka's economic crisis, pledging support for Colombo in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Moreover, the statement urged creditors to be part of the solution as well in their handling of Sri Lanka's debt. Berlin said that this would help the IMF quickly restore Sri Lankan solvency.
In May, Sri Lanka defaulted on international debt payments of $51 billion (€50.6 billion), at the time, the governor of the country's central bank said it would be impossible for Sri Lanka to repay its debt without restructuring. One of Colombo's biggest creditors is China (between $5-$10 billion), followed by India ($3.8 billion), Japan (at least $3.5 billion) and other wealthy countries ($1 billion).
The country was in debt relief talks with the IMF when Rajapaksa, who is said to have stolen massive amounts of cash out of state coffers for he and his family, fled the country.
What is happening with protests in Sri Lanka?
In the capital Colombo, crowds celebrated the resignation by dancing, setting off firecrackers and chanting slogans. Protests over the situation and dire shortages of necessities have been going on for months. Last week, groups of protesters stormed the president and prime minister's residences.
"To be validated like this is massive. On a global scale, we have led a movement that toppled a president with minimal force and violence. It's a mix of victory and relief," Viraga Perera, a protester, told the AP news agency.
Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Sri Lankan think tank Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), told DW he thinks tension in the country could continue if lawmakers choose Wickremesinghe to lead the country.
"[Protesters] have also demanded that Ranil Wickremesinghe go home on the grounds that he has thrown a lifeline to the Rajapaksa. So the tension has not dissipated completely," Saravanamuttu said.
There is a chance Wickremesinghe could be named president as his party, which holds the most seats in parliament, put him forward on Friday as its presidential candidate.
Demonstrators on Thursday left several of the buildings they had occupied after Prime Minister Wickremesinghe instructed security forces to restore order.
"For the people, it means victory. People I spoke to are extremely happy that Gotabaya Rajapaksa has stepped down as president. But they do want him back, they want him to be held accountable for charges of corruption and mismanagement of funds," said DW correspondent Manira Chaudhary.
"For Rajapaksa's family, which ruled this country for decades, it will be almost impossible for them to come back to power. The public mood is very much against Wickremesinghe as well," she added.
A curfew imposed in the area on Thursday was lifted early on Friday, police spokesman Nalin Thalduwa said.
Police said a soldier and a constable were injured in clashes with protesters outside the national parliament as security forces beat back an attempt to storm the legislature. Protesters also left the studios of the main state television station after breaking in on Wednesday.
Wickremesinghe ordered a state of emergency on Thursday, warning demonstrators in a televised address to the nation that security forces would maintain order: "We are committed to safeguarding democracy. There is a big difference between protesters and rioters. The rioters will be dealt with according to the law."
What will happen next?
As per the constitution, Wickremesinghe becomes acting president until parliament can elect a member of parliament to succeed Rajapaksa for the rest of his term. Protesters have also been calling for the resignation of Wickremesinghe.
The new president could potentially appoint a new prime minister, who would then have to be approved by parliament.
Singapore's Foreign Ministry confirmed Rajapaksa had been allowed to enter the city-state. "He has not asked for asylum and neither has he been granted any asylum," said the ministry.
Rajapaksa is expected to look to stay in Singapore for some time, according to Sri Lankan security sources, the AFP news agency reported. He could potentially move to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Sri Lanka had begun preliminary discussions with the International Monetary Fund about a potential bailout loan. But the recent upheaval has disrupted talks.
IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters on Thursday that Fund's staff were still in contact with technical-level government officials but hoped to resume high-level dialogue "as soon as possible."
tg,js/sms (AP, Reuters)