Sri Lanka’s PM defeats ex-president in elections

Ruling party wins parliamentary polls, dashing former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s hopes of becoming prime minister.

Supporters of Sri Lanka''s ruling United National Party carry a portrait of prime minister
Supporters carry a portrait of PM Wickremasinghe as they celebrate their party''s election performance [AP]

Sri Lanka’s ruling United National Party (UNP) has won the country’s parliamentary election, final results show, putting it in a position to form a stable government after eight months of minority rule.

The victory for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also blocks a key step of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid to return to power seven months after he lost the presidency.

Wickremesinghe’s centre-right party won 106 of parliament’s 225 seats in Monday’s general elections, while Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance secured 95.

The ruling party fell seven seats short of a clear majority, but Wickremesinghe should still be able to control parliament with the support of allies of President Maithripala Sirisena.

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“I offer my grateful thanks to all parties and individuals who worked untiringly during the election period to ensure victory for the people,” Wickremesinghe, 66, said in a statement.

“Let us together build a civilised society, build a consensual government and create a new country.”

Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Colombo, said the president is expected to ask the prime minister to form a government in the coming days.

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As the UNP fell short of an absolute majority, Wickremesinghe will then have to negotiate with political allies.

“There will be a few days yet before we see the future face of the government here in this country,” our correspondent said. “That also leaves questions about former president’s Rajapaksa’s political future, what he does next.”

Sirisena beat his former ally Rajapaksa in a presidential vote in January and called early parliamentary polls to secure a stronger mandate for reforms.

Rajapaksa was Sri Lanka’s president for nine years until his January 8 election defeat. 

Rajapaksa was aiming to become prime minister, a position that could eventually elevate him back to the presidency.

He must now be content with being an opposition legislator.

Sirisena defected from Rajapaksa’s government and formed an alliance with Wickremesinghe to defeat Rajapaksa in the presidential election.

He accused Rajapaksa of misrule, corruption and nepotism.

Source: News Agencies