Sri Lanka’s President Rajapakse accepts election defeat

ElectionsSri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has conceded defeat in his re-election bid and promised to clear the way for a smooth transition, officials said Friday.

Official sources said results announced so far from Thursday’s election had given opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena an unassailable lead.

Presidential press secretary Vijayananda Herath said that Rajapakse had conceded defeat to Ranil Wickremesinghe, who leads the opposition in parliament.

“The president met with former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning. The president concedes defeat and will ensure a smooth transition of power bowing to the wishes of the people,” Herath told AFP.

There was no immediate comment from Sirisena who was still at his private home in Polonnaruwa, 215 kilometres (134 miles) east of the capital Colombo.

Opposition lawmaker Harsha de Silva said transitional arrangements were being discussed with Rajapakse and that Wickremesinghe had “guaranteed him and his family security”.

Voters turned out in large numbers on Thursday for the tightest presidential election Sri Lanka has seen in decades.

Rajapakse had seemed assured of victory when he called snap polls in November seeking an unprecedented third term, five years after crushing a Tamil separatist rebellion that had traumatised the country for decades.

But with nearly a third of the ballots officially declared, Sirisena has 52.49 percent of the vote and Rajapakse 46.21 percent.

“The president has seen a clear majority for the opposition candidate and there is no way to overcome that,” a source close to the outgoing president said. (AFP)

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