Gotabaya Rajapaksa has claimed victory in the Sri Lanka presidential polls after a closely fought election, as his main opponent Sajith Premadasa of the ruling United National Party conceded defeat on Saturday. Rajapaksa, a former defence secretary and brother of two-time former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, based his campaign for Saturday's vote on providing strong leadership on national security issues, following coordinated bombings in April that killed at least 269 people.
Premadasa conceded the presidential election to his rival even before the official results were announced by the Elections Secretariat. "It is my privilege to honour the people's decision and congratulate Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election," said Premadasa.
"I am grateful our citizens who voted for me. I am humbled that you placed your faith in me. Your support has been a fountain of strength throughout my political career," he said on Twitter.
Premadasa Steps Down As UNP Deputy-Leader
Sajith Premadasa, candidate of Sri Lanka's ruling party, also stepped down as the Deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP) with immediate effect.
"In light of today's decision by the electorate, I have decided to step down as Deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP) with immediate effect," he said in a statement.
Following the victory, 70-year-old retired lieutenant colonel Rajapaksa urged his supporters to "rejoice peacefully".
"As we usher in a new journey for Sri Lanka, we must remember that all Sri Lankans are part of this journey. Let us rejoice peacefully, with dignity and discipline in the same manner in which we campaigned," the former wartime defence secretary said in a tweet.
PM Modi Congralates Rajapaksa
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congraluted Rajapaksa on his victory. "Congratulations @GotabayaR on your victory in the Presidential elections. 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," PM Modi tweeted. "I also congratulate the people of Sri Lanka for the successful conduct of the elections," he added.
I also congratulate the people of Sri Lanka for the successful conduct of the elections.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 17, 2019
Rajapaksa stormed ahead of Premadasa in the tightly contested presidential election in the results declared early Sunday morning. The retired lieutenant colonel, who was the top defence ministry bureaucrat for 10 years, swept the poll in the Sinhala majority districts while Premadasa garnered most of the votes from the Tamil dominated north and east of the country.
Mahinda Rajapaksa To Become PM!
Rajapaksa is expected to be declared as the President of Sri Lanka in the evening with a majority of over a million votes, officials said.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is also expected to step down after the result. However, Wickremesinghe cannot be removed unless he steps down.
It is believed that Rajapaksa, after taking over as the President, would appoint his elder brother Mahinda as the Prime Minister.
Rajapaksa will replace Maithripala Sirisena as the country's next president for a five-year term. Sirisena had ended Mahinda's nearly a decade-long rule in 2015.