Sri Lankan President Leaves Office after 10 Years
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat in presidential election, and lost his bid for a third term on Friday after a decade of rule over the country.
As results rolled in overnight from Thursday's election, it became clear that Rajapaksa had been beaten by opposition candidate Mithripala Sirisena, a one-time ally who defected overnight in November and derailed what the president thought would be an easy win.
Celebratory firecrackers could be heard exploding in the capital, Colombo, after Rajapaksa's office said he had accepted the victory of Sirisena, who has vowed to root out corruption and bring constitutional reforms to weaken the power of the presidency.
Sirisena, a soft-spoken 63-year-old from the rice-growing hinterlands of this Indian Ocean island state, is expected to be sworn in at Colombo's Independence Square at 6:00 p.m. local time.
His allies say he will rebalance the country's foreign policy, which tilted heavily towards China in recent years as Rajapaksa fell out with the West over human rights and allegations of war crimes committed at the end of a drawn-out conflict with Tamil separatists in 2009.
The Department of Elections said that of 7.6 million votes counted so far, Sirisena had taken 52.05 percent and Rajapaksa was trailing on 46.7 percent, Reuters reported.
Rajapaksa won handsomely in the last election in 2010, surfing a wave of popularity months after the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels.
But critics say he had become increasingly authoritarian, with several members of his family holding key positions of power, and although the economy had blossomed since the end of the war, voters complained of the high cost of living.
Sirisena has pledged to abolish the executive presidency that gave Rajapaksa unprecedented power and hold a fresh parliamentary election within 100 days.