Sri Lanka's main opposition candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the new President of Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa took an unassailable lead over the ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa in the hotly contested election. The 70-year-old former wartime defence secretary, the younger brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, has swept the poll with over 60 per cent margins in most Sinhala majority districts while his 52-year-old rival Premadasa has performed well in the minority Tamil-dominated north and east provinces. Though the official results of the election will be out only by evening, both the SLPP and rival UNP confirm that Gotabaya Rajapaksa has won.
Rajapaksa spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella described the win as a “people’s victory," news agency AP reported.
Premadasa had garnered over 80 per cent of the vote in Tamil areas, reducing Rajapaksa to less than 5 per cent in some areas in the north. In the Muslim-dominated Muttur in the east, Premadasa was a clear winner with 90 per cent of the votes polled.
Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to India, Austin Fernando, speaking exclusively to India TV, confirmed that Sajith Premadasa had called Gatobaya Rajapaksha and congratulated him on his win.
When asked about India-Sri Lanka relationship with the new President, the High Commissioner said, "India - Sri Lanka relations will grow as fast as ever, India and Sri Lanka have strong relations and both countries will continue to work this."
The poll on Saturday brought curtains down on a campaign which was kick started on October 7 with the handing over of nominations. A record number of 35 candidates contested with 15.9 million of the island's 21 million population eligible to vote.
Rajapaksa secured 52.25 per cent votes (6,924,255) while Premadasa received 41.99 per cent (5,564,239), according to the official results.
Other candidates got 5.76 per cent votes, the election commission said.
Rajapaksa, 70, who will succeed President Maithripala Sirisena, urged his supporters to "rejoice peacefully".
Premadasa, 52, conceded the presidential election to his rival even before the official results were announced by the Elections Secretariat. He also stepped down as the Deputy Leader of the ruling United National Party (UNP) with immediate effect.
Sri Lankans voted on Saturday to choose a successor to President Maithripala Sirisena amid multiple poll-related incidents, including an attack on the minority Muslim voters. As many as 12,845 polling stations were set up across the country.
The Lanka election took place nearly seven months after homegrown radicals pledging loyalty to the Islamic State terror group detonated suicide bombs at three churches and three posh hotels, killing 269 people, seriously hitting the tourism industry, one of the main forex earning sectors of the country.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Gotabaya on his victory.
Taking on to Twitter, PM Modi said, "I look forward to working closely with you for deepening the close and fraternal ties between our two countries and citizens, and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region."
Congratulations @GotabayaR on your victory in the Presidential elections.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 17, 2019
I look forward to working closely with you for deepening the close and fraternal ties between our two countries and citizens, and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region.
(With PTI inputs)