Colombo: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former Defence Minister and also the brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Sunday won Sri Lanka’s presidential election but lost in almost all of the minority Tamils and Muslim provinces of the island nation.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa won in most of the Sinhala majority southern districts, according to the results announced by 12 noon.
However, he lost the Tamil majority civil war affected Northern Province and the Muslim dominated Eastern Province with a vote percentage of 65 to 70 per cent.
Rajapaksa was defeated in all of the Northern Province’s five districts — Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mulaitivu, Vavuniya, Mannar — and three districts in the Eastern Province — Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara — almost all affected by the three decade long war.
The Eastern Province was also the hometown of key ringleaders of the April 21 Easter Sunday suicide bombings which claimed the lives of over 250 persons and injured more than 400 others.
Gotabaya Rajapakasa received 51.41 per cent vote with 4,940,849 ballots, while his nearest rival, the New Democratic Front (NDF) and UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premsadasa received 42.72 per cent of 4,106,293 voted.
According to the country’s law, the President contender must receive 50 per cent or over to win the election.
While congratulating Gotabaya on his victory, Premadasa in a statement said he would step down as Deputy Leader of the ruling United National Party with immediate effect.
“At the conclusion of a hard fought and spirited election campaign, It is my privilege to honour the decision of the people and congratulate Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the seventh President of Sri Lanka,”Premadasa as saying
“I express my heartfelt gratitude to all of our citizens who voted for me, in all corners of the island. I am humbled that you placed your faith in me. Your support has been a fountain of strength throughout my 26-year-long political career.”
In the Tamil-majority Northern Province, the polling percentage was recorded around 70 per cent with 66 per cent voter turnout in Jaffna district. Former war-affected districts Kilinochchi polled 73 per cent, Mullaitivu 76 per cent, Vavuniya 75 and Mannar 71 per cent.
The percentage was a little less than the 2015 Presidential election when average voting percentage was 81.52 per cent out of which incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena won with 51.28 per cent with 6,217,162 votes while Mahinda Rajapaksa garnered 47.58 per cent with 5,768,090 votes.
Sirisena won in 12 districts while Rajapaksa won 10 districts.
Around 80 per cent of the nearly 16 million eligible Sri Lankans voted on Saturday to elect the country’s next President.
The final results were expected by Sunday 6 p.m. and it is expected that the new President would take oaths later in the day.
A record 35 candidates contested for the Presidency, but the main fight was confined between the two front-runners.
Gotabaya is retired soldier who took over Sri Lanka’s defence portfolio during the period when his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa was President (2005-2015) and also when Sri Lanka ended its war in 2009 with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
On the other hand, Sajith Premadasa, the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa who served as the President from 1989 until he was assassinated in May 1993 by the LTTE, had pledged to fight for the Muslim and Tamil minorities.