UNF wins Sri Lanka battle, Mahinda Rajapaksa concedes defeat

Colombo, Aug 18: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNF on Tuesday won a keenly fought parliamentary election, winning 106 of the 225 seats. The opposition led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat.

“Let us together build a civilised society, build a consensual government and create a new country with equal opportunities for everybody,” said Wickremesinghe even before the official results were declared as it became clear that the United National Front was poised to be the winner.

According to final results, the UNF fell just seven seats short of a parliamentary majority, media reports said.

But members from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) loyal to President Maithripala Sirisena are expected to support the UNF to give it a clear majority.

The opposition United People’ s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), whose main candidate was former president Rajapaksa, got 93 seats in Monday’s polls, a far cry from the majority it was expecting.

A sombre Rajapaksa conceded defeat in the elections.

“My dream of becoming the prime minister has faded away,” Rajapaksa said. “I am conceding we have lost a good fight.”

The former president, whose decade-long rule was marred by human rights abuses, told his aides that he expected Wickremesinghe to lure some of his MPs to cobble a majority in parliament.

UNP leaders expressed confidence that they would reach the figure of 113 MPs needed to form a government with the help of smaller parties.

“We intend to keep our promises and develop the country,” UNP leader John Amaratunga said, adding that Wickremesinghe would again take oath as prime minister.

The election results showed that many even in Sinhalese majority areas who had backed Rajapaksa in the January presidential election, which he stunningly lost to Sirisena, had thrown their weight behind the UNF, which is allied with Sirisena.

Wickremesinghe said he planned to “continue the January 8 revolution”.

The main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), won 14 seats in the northern district of Jaffna. The Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna got four seats. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) won one seat each.

Wickremesinghe’s UNF won in 11 of the country’s 22 districts while the UPFA triumphed in eight and the TNA — formerly the political arm of the now vanquished Tamil Tigers — in three districts.

The UNF secured 5,098,927 votes (45.66 percent) followed by the UPFA with 4,732,669 votes (42.38 percent). The JVP secured 543,944 votes (4.87 percent) and the TNA obtained 515,963 (4.62 percent) votes.

Both Jaffna and Vanni districts, which saw thousands of deaths during the end stages of the armed conflict that ended in 2009, voted for the TNA, which is expected to ally with Wickremesinghe, media reports said.

Wickremesinghe urged Sri Lankans not to divide themselves as winners and losers and work together as one family for the betterment of Sri Lanka and to introduce a new political culture in the island nation.

He said in a statement that people had given a mandate for good governance and consensus-based politics.

President Sirisena showed he intended to take control of the UPFA when he sacked, after the polling ended on Monday, several key leaders known to be close to Rajapaksa and replaced them with his loyalists.

National list slots for each party are expected to be announced once the preferential votes for each candidate is discussed by the parties.  (IANS)

General ElectionsMahinda RajapaksaPrime MinisterRanil WickremesingheSri LankaUNF