Sat, 24 Jul 2021

Colombo [Sri Lanka], Nov 18 (ANI): Sri Lanka's wartime defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday took the oath of the country's 7th President at Ruwanweliseya, a Buddhist pagoda, in Anuradhapura.

Rajapaksa, 70, defeated Sajith Premadasa, 52, by more than 13 lakh votes, according to the official results announced by Sri Lanka Election Commission.

He is the second member of the Rajapaksa family to become the president. His older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was president from 2005 to 2015.

Rajapaksa secured 52.25 per cent votes (6,924,255) while Premadasa received 41.99 per cent of the total votes polled (5,564,239), the election commission said.

The newly-elected President, brother of two-time former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, based his campaign on providing strong leadership on national security issues, following coordinated bombings in April that killed at least 269 people.

Rajapaksa had stressed on his credentials as the defence secretary that brought a close to the bloody 26-year civil war, while also calling for an overhaul of economic policies implemented by Premadasa's UNP during its five years in charge of Parliament.

The UNP leader announced his resignation in a statement on Sunday after accepting his defeat in the presidential elections that took off in the weekend. But the UNP would still remain in control of the Parliament until February under a mandate by the Constitution.

Meanwhile, a potential standoff with incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the UNP chief, could be in the row, as the newly-elected President has stated his intention to appoint his brother Mahinda as the new prime minister.

Paikisothy Saravanamuttu, executive director at the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives, said Sri Lankans had elected "a majoritarian, authoritarian government".

"The first thing that will happen is the prime minister will [likely] offer his resignation and Mahinda Rajapaksa will be sworn in," he told Al Jazeera.

"Or, I think, Parliament will vote to dissolve itself, and a new election can be held by February. Or in March, the president can [constitutionally] dissolve the Parliament, anyway."In the aftermath of the electoral defeat, the Prime Minister held a meeting with Cabinet ministers to discuss the next course of action earlier today. A few Cabinet ministers are reported to have requested Wickremesinghe to step down from his office making way for Rajapaksa to form a government in conformity with the mandate he received at the election, Daily Mirror reported after quoting sources.

More than 15.9 million Sri Lankans were eligible to vote in the presidential election, with voter turnout expected to top 80 per cent, Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the election commission, told reporters on Saturday at the conclusion of polling. (ANI)

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