Rajapaksa loses, Wickremesinghe to return as PM

UNP wins 106 seats, UPFA gets 95

Rajapaksa loses, Wickremesinghe to return as PM

Vanquished Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s hopes of staging a political comeback were shattered on Tuesday when his party lost a closely-fought parliamentary election to incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The premier’s United National Party (UNP) won a total of 106 seats in the 225-member assembly, falling short of an absolute majority by just seven seats, but enough to form a government.

Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) came second, securing 95 seats.
The minority Tamil National Alliance (TNA) swept the ethnic Tamil-majority Northern and Eastern provinces with 16 seats.

Election analysts had predicted that the UNP would fall short of an absolute majority of 113 by just four seats.

The 69-year-old two-time president, Rajapaksa, was quoted as saying he conceded defeat “after a good fight”.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who defeated Rajapaksa in the January 8 presidential polls, had earlier vowed not to make the former strongman premier even if his UPFA secured a majority.

Prime minister-designate Wickremesinghe said the UNP’s victory was a mandate 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 the people have backed the “revolution” achieved in January, and want it to continue.

“We have to work united towards lifting the nation to new heights by facing challenges of the new era. I invite all of you to join hands with us to face the challenges of our mission,” said Wickremesinghe.

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

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 the former came to power.

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.

Change of order
Defeat for Rajapaksa will keep Sri Lanka on a non-aligned foreign policy course and loosen its ties with China, which during his rule pumped in billions of dollars to try to turn the Indian Ocean island into a maritime outpost.

After him, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have made concerted efforts to improve ties with India.

Rajapaksa could now be confronted with a judicial reckoning, along with two brothers who held high office, for alleged corruption and abuse of power during his decade in office. They have denied any wrongdoing.

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