SRI LANKA | Over 15 million people voted in the Presidential election conducted on Saturday in Sri Lanka. The elections were seen as a turning moment for the country that has witnessed its deepest economic slump in over 15 years following Easter Sunday suicide bombings.
The election saw 35 candidates standing for the position of the president which is the recorded longest-ever ballot paper in the country.
In the 2015 election, there were 22 candidates while this time the number was 35.Among the candidates are two Buddhist monks, four from the Muslim minority, and one woman. About 16 million people from Sri Lanka’s population of 21 million voted. And this was for the first time in Sri Lanka’s history, neither the current president nor prime minister is vying for the presidency.
Official results were published on Sunday with Gotabaya Rajapaksa emerging as the winner by securing 52.25 per cent votes.
Sri Lanka’s ruling party presidential candidate conceded defeat to rival Gotabaya Rajapaksa. According to Associated Press, Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa said in a statement that he will “honor the decision of the people” in polls Saturday favouring Rajapaksa, the civil war-era defence secretary who served under his brother, ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
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.
The news was published by PTI on Sunday morning that Sri Lanka Election Commission declared Gotabya Rajapaksa as the winner in the presidential poll with 52.25 per cent votes.
After the declaration, Gotabaya Rajapaksa took to twitter to express his delight and gratitude for having been given an opportunity to serve the “Sri Lankans”.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to be the President, not only of those who voted for me, but as the President of all Sri Lankans. The trust you have invested in me is deeply moving and being your president will be the greatest honor of my life -Let’s put our vision into action!” Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a tweet after official results were announced.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a congratulatory note to Gotabaya Rajapaksa for winning the polls.
In his response to PM Modi’s tweet, Rajapaksa expressed interest in strengthening Sri Lanka and India’s relations.
“I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people of India for your warm wishes. Our two nations are bound by history and common beliefs and I look forward to strengthening our friendship and meeting you in the near future,” Gotabaya Rajapaksa tweeted in his reply to PM Modi.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been known for anti-minority actions since he oversaw the military defeat of Tamil separatists under his brother and then president Mahinda Rajapaksa 10 years ago. He has promised strong leadership to secure the island of 22 million people, the majority of whom are Sinhalese Buddhists. Rajapaksa, 70, would be the latest nationalist leader swept to power across the world, tapping into the anger and fears of majority communities. He and his brothers, who are expected to get key positions, are also seen as closer to China, which has invested billions of dollars building ports, expressways and power stations.