Gotabaya Rajapaksa elected Sri Lankan president: Official results

Agencies Colombo, Sri Lanka Nov 17, 2019, 03.54 PM(IST)

Gotabaya Rajapaksa (File photo) Photograph:( AFP )

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Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following April 21 suicide bomb attacks by homegrown jihadi extremists.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa won Sri Lanka's presidential election with 52.25 per cent of the vote, well ahead of his nearest rival Sajith Premadasa on 41.99 per cent, the election commission said Sunday.

Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following April 21 suicide bomb attacks by homegrown jihadi extremists.

His triumph is expected to alarm Sri Lanka's Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists and possibly some in the international community following the 2005-15 presidency of his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mahinda, with Gotabaya effectively running the security forces, ended a 37-year civil war with Tamil separatists. His decade in power was also marked by alleged rights abuses, murky extra-judicial killings and closer ties with China.

Gotabaya, a retired lieutenant-colonel, 70, nicknamed the "Terminator" by his own family, romped to victory with 51.9 per cent of the vote, results from the two-thirds of votes counted so far showed. 

"I didn’t sleep all night," said student Devni, 22, one of around 30 people who gathered outside Rajapaksa's Colombo residence. "I am so excited, he is the president we need."

Rajapaksa's main rival, the moderate Sajith Premadasa of the ruling party, trailed on 42.3 per cent, The 52-year-old conceded the race and congratulated Rajapaksa.

On Sunday three cabinet members resigned -- including Finance Minister Mangalar Samaraweera.

The final result was expected later on Sunday with Rajapaksa due to be sworn in on Monday. Turnout was over 80 per cent.

Premadasa had strong support in minority Tamil areas but a poor showing in Sri Lanka's Sinhalese heartland, a core support base where Rajapaksa won some two-thirds of the vote.