Sri Lanka's president resigns hours after fleeing

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STORY: Celebrations broke out on the streets of Colombo - after the resignation of Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Protesters had massed outside the presidential secretariat, defying a city-wide curfew.

According to a spokesperson, Rajapaksa submitted his resignation by email late on Thursday - hours after he fled to Singapore following mass protests over an economic meltdown.

It would be official on Friday - once the document is legally verified.

Protests against the economic crisis have simmered for months and came to a head last weekend when hundreds of thousands of people took over government buildings in Colombo.

They blame the Rajapaksa family and allies for runaway inflation, shortages of basic goods, and corruption.

Rajapaksa had promised to resign by Wednesday, stirring renewed uncertainty in crisis-hit Sri Lanka as the deadline passed.

And his decision on Wednesday to make his ally Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the acting president sparked more unrest, with demonstrators storming parliament and the premier's office demanding that he quit too.

Protesters say they'd have no problem with an elected president.

"But if it is going to be Ranil Wickremesinghe who is elected, we would love to know who in parliament votes for a man whose party got only 225,000 votes and yet he is going to control 22 million people. We will have to question if parliament is a place where the views of the people are taken into consideration. It means that members do not understand the demand of the people for change and that the people are suffering."

Parliament is expected to name a new full-time president on July 20.

A top ruling party source told Reuters that Wickremesinghe was the party's first choice, although no decision has been taken yet.