Colombo, Sri Lanka - In a surprising turn of events, Mahinda Rajapaksa - who ruled the country for a decade and was seeking a third term in office by calling snap elections two years ahead of schedule - was forced to concede defeat after last week's vote. 

His opponent Maithripala Sirisena defeated the incumbent president by taking 51.3 percent of the vote on the promise of bringing about "qualitative change" and transferring sweeping presidential powers implemented by Rajapaksa back to parliament.

Al Jazeera spoke with Sri Lankans who expressed their hopes for a better life under the country's new president.

Mushtaq

 

Musthaq [Matthew East/Al Jazeera]

Mushtaq lives in the capital Colombo.

"President Maithripala Sirisena has 100 days to make change. One of his key election platforms was his 100-day, 100-point plan to start to get this country back on track. We need change."

Mohamad Zafarullah

 

Mohamad Zafarullah [Matthew East/Al Jazeera]

Mohamad Zafarullah is a 66-year-old mechanic who lives in Colombo. 

"With the grace of God, if living costs drop then we have achieved our goal in choosing this president. We are hoping for development and if the development comes and the poor are included, we will be very glad."

Fahim

 

Fahim [Matthew East/Al Jazeera]

Fahim, 36, lives in Colombo. 

"Sri Lanka needs change - a change for the better. I hope Maithripala Sirisena can bring change to my country, quickly."

Bala Subramanya

 

Bala Subramanya [Matthew East/Al Jazeera]

Bala Subramanya is a baker who lives in Colombo.

"The government we voted for has come to power and that is very good for us. The important thing is we wanted change and it has happened. We hope to live in peace and that this government will not commit the same mistakes as the previous one. We hope it will look after the poor."

MSM Sabris

 

MSM Sabris [Matthew East/Al Jazeera]

MSM Sabris, 36, is an election monitor working for Campaign for Free and Fair Elections, a Sri Lanka-based NGO in Colombo.

"Previous elections under Mahinda Rajapaksa weren't free and fair. There was always violence and intimidation, especially against minorities. This time I wanted to stand up and have my say. I want to do good for my country. I want the best for my country."

Source: Al Jazeera