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Gotabaya Rajapaksa elected president of Sri Lanka

By
Allen Cone
Gotabaya Rajapaksa waves to supporters in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Sunday after the announcement of his victory in the country's presidential election. Photo by EPA-EFE/STR
Gotabaya Rajapaksa waves to supporters in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Sunday after the announcement of his victory in the country's presidential election. Photo by EPA-EFE/STR

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Gotabaya Rajapaksa, with ultranationalist support in rural areas, defeated moderate Sajith Premadasa in the presidential election in final results announced Sunday.

Rajapaksa, 70, won with 52.25 percent of the vote in Saturday's election, according to Sri Lanka's election commission.

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"As we usher in a new journey for Sri Lanka, we must remember that all Sri Lankans are part of this journey," Rajapaksa said in a Twitter post. "Let us rejoice peacefully, with dignity and discipline in the same manner in which we campaigned."

Rajapaksa, a former defense secretary, headed the newly formed party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna as a member of a family that is the country's most influential political clan. He is the brother of two-time former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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Earlier Sunday, Premadasa, 52, issued a concession statement: "At the conclusion of a hard-fought and spirited election campaign, it is my privilege to honour the decision of the people and congratulate Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the seventh President of Sri Lanka."

Premadasa's United National Party remains in control of Parliament until at least February before a constitutionally mandated parliamentary election may be held. Premadasa said he was resigning as UNP's deputy party leader.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, the UNP chief, is prime minister but Rajapaksa has said he intends to appoint his brother Mahinda as prime minister.

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"The first thing that will happen is the prime minister will [likely] offer his resignation and Mahinda Rajapaksa will be sworn in," Paikisothy Saravanamuttu, executive director at the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives told Al Jazeera.

"Or, I think, Parliament will vote to dissolve itself, and a new election can be held by February. Or in March, the president can [constitutionally] dissolve the Parliament, anyway."

His support mainly came from the Sinhalese-Buddhist majority. Rajapaksa trailed in the country's linguistic and religious minorities.

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In campaign promises, Rajapaksa wants to restore discipline and strengthen national security in urban areas, including Colombo, the largest city in the country.

In April, at least 269 people died in coordinated bombings.

Turnout was 87 percent with 13,387,951 voting in the presidential election, according to the commission.

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