PM Imran congratulates Sri Lanka’s Gotabaya Rajapaksa on election victory


Sri Lanka's minority Tamils and Muslims are seen as crucial to deciding a victor in a close contest between the two front runners - housing minister Sajith Premadasa and the opposition's Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

"It is my privilege to honour the decision of the people and congratulate Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the seventh president of Sri Lanka", Premadasa said in a statement. The Tamils in all five administrative districts in the Northern province - Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mulaitivu, Vavuniya, Mannar, and the majority Muslims in three districts in the Eastern Province - Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara - voted against Rajapaksa with lead of 80 percent in most districts.

Rajapaksa led the election campaign with national security as the topmost priority and vowed that he would eliminate terrorists and ensure that similar attack would not be repeated.

Rajapaksa's percentage of the vote was 52.25 per cent, well above the 50 per cent plus one vote needed for victory. Nearly 16 million people are eligible to vote in Sri Lanka and after only 6 hours of voting, 60% had already cast their votes.

Rajapaksa further said that the Elections Commission will receive his full support to hold the country's elections at the correct time.

"I am very happy that I have won". The Rajapaksa brothers were often seen earlier as having a pronounced pro-China tilt which had caused some anxiety to New Delhi but India is hoping that its policy of active engagement will address the issue effectively. The militant Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for the attack, which left 45 foreigners dead.

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Saturday's poll was the first popularity test of the United National Party (UNP) government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who stepped aside and allowed his deputy Mr Premadasa to stand in the election.

The previous Rajapaksa era was marked by close ties between Sri Lanka and China, with the latter investing billions in infrastructure and development on the island.

Mr Bery said: "There is a genuine sense of fear about what a Gotabaya presidency means for minorities, and it will be up to him to show that he is indeed looking to the future and healing the wounds of the past". War-torn pastSuppression of the Tamil Tigers separatist group in 2009 ended almost 30 years of civil war in Sri Lanka and earned the Rajapaksa brothers widespread support from the country's Sinhalese Buddhist majority.

Gotabaya has denied allegations that he received millions of dollars by way of kickbacks from a second-hand aircraft purchase from Ukraine in 2007. While Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has remained friendly towards New Delhi, Sri Lanka's hard economic situation, with its external debt burden, meant that Colombo turned back to Beijing to complete major projects.

He has also said he intends to put his brother forward for prime minister at the general elections next year, paving the way for the family to take a stranglehold on power in Sri Lanka. The only major incident was on Saturday when gunmen fired at two vehicles in a convoy of at least 100 buses taking Muslim voters to cast ballots.

After a campaign that according to the Election Commission was the worst ever for hate speech and misinformation, final results could come by later Sunday.