Agency Colombo: Sri Lanka’s controversial wartime defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa will lead the country after ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa conceded the hotly contested presidential poll on Sunday, marking the return of the powerful Rajapaksa dynasty known for its pro-China tilt, amidst security challenges following the Easter Sunday terror attacks that killed 269 people. Rajapaksa, 70, defeated Premadasa, 52, by more than 13 lakh votes, according to the official results. Rajapaksa, who will succeed President Maithripala Sirisena for a five-year term, will be sworn in as the seventh executive president of Sri Lanka on Monday at the ancient north central town of Anuradhapura. He will be the second member from the Rajapaksa family to become the president. His older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was president from 2005 to 2015. Rajapaksa secured 52.25 per cent votes (6,924,255) while Premadasa received 41.99 per cent of the total votes polled (5,564,239), the election commission said.
Other candidates got 5.76 per cent votes.
Rajapaksa urged his supporters to “rejoice peacefully”.
Rajapaksa had vowed to “restore relations” with Sri Lanka’s top lender, China, if he wins the election, despite international concerns over the island nation’s financial debt to the Asian superpower.
Premadasa, meanwhile, was considered leaning more towards India and the US.
He conceded the presidential election to his rival even before the official results were announced and also stepped down as the Deputy Leader of the ruling United National Party (UNP) with immediate effect.
Rajapaksa, who was the top defence ministry bureaucrat for 10 years, swept the poll in the Sinhala majority districts while Premadasa garnered most of the votes from the Tamil dominated north and east and Muslim community, including the tea plantation workers of Indian origin.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Rajapaksa and said he looks forward to further deepen relations between the two nations.
Rajapaksa thanked the people of India and Modi, saying he looks forward to strengthening the friendship and meeting him in the near future.
The turnout in the election was more than 80 per cent.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who cannot be removed unless he steps down, is expected to resign.
The current Parliament cannot be dissolved at least before February next year.
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