The leader of Sri Lanka’s biggest opposition party has urged the IMF to provide support to ease the country’s humanitarian crisis and cushion the blow of reforms needed to save its ruined economy. Sajith Premadasa, who is one of the main contenders as MPs prepare to vote for the country’s next president, called for a general election to be organised as soon as possible “if the country is to be saved”. The next general election is set to take place in 2025. Premadasa also accused Ranil Wickremesinghe, a rival who is favoured to replace the ousted president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, of “lacking legitimacy”. The extraordinary vote by MPs, scheduled for Wednesday, will cap a months-long revolt against the powerful Rajapaksa clan, which culminated in the ransacking of the presidential office and private residence, and Rajapaksa’s night-time escape by plane to the Maldives and then Singapore. “The IMF and all international financial institutions have to look at Sri Lanka in a more humane manner,” Premadasa, whose party commands less than a quarter of MPs in the 225-strong parliament, told the Financial Times in an interview at his Colombo headquarters, adding that the situation had unfolded into a “humanitarian crisis”. “Just because an elected dictatorship decided on this course of action, the world should not punish the 22mn people living in our country,” he said. Whoever becomes the next leader will face the worst economic and political crisis in Sri Lanka’s post-independence history, and will have to negotiate a bailout package with the IMF while restructuring more than $50bn in external debt owed to international creditors.