Wickremesinghe to return as PM, Rajapaksa concedes defeat

Wickremesinghe to return as PM, Rajapaksa concedes defeat

Wickremesinghe to return as PM, Rajapaksa concedes defeat

Incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe was today set for another term as Sri Lanka's Prime Minister after his rival Mahinda Rajapaksa's hopes of staging a political comeback were shattered and he conceded defeat in the parliamentary polls.

Prime Minister-designate Wickremesinghe said the victory achieved by his United National Party (UNP) was a mandate given by the people for good governance.

"I offer my grateful thanks to all parties and individuals who worked untiringly during the election period to ensure victory for the people. We have been able to create a peaceful atmosphere needed for a free and fair election," the 66-year-old leader said.

He said people have backed the revolution achieved on January 8 and want that to continue.

"We have to unitedly work towards lifting the nation to a new height by facing challenges of the new era. I invite all of you to join hands with us to face the challenges of our mission," Wickremesinghe said.

His statement came after Rajapaksa said his United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had lost after a close battle with the UNP.

The 69-year-old two-time president was quoted as saying that he conceded defeat "after a good fight".

Although final results were yet to be announced, UNP had won 93 seats while UPFA had won 83 seats. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna party had won four seats.

Election authorities said the UNP will fall short of an absolute majority of 113 by at least four seats in the 225-member Parliament.

Wickremasinghe was set to take oath in a simple ceremony at the Presidential Secretariat while the cabinet of national government was to be appointed later.

In the north's Tamil districts, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) appeared to have made a clean sweep by winning three districts.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who defeated Rajapaksa in the January presidential polls, had vowed not to make the former strongman premier even if his UPFA wins a majority.

A group of Sirisena supporters is likely to join a broad- based national unity government led by Wickremesinghe, who was appointed as Premier soon after Sirisena came to power.

Sirisena was Rajapaksa's health minister until he came forward as the opposition unity candidate to challenge the then president last year.

A total of 196 Parliament members are elected for a five-year term while 29 are appointed based on the national proportion of votes polled by each party.