President Mahinda Rajapaksa has called for all Sri Lankans to work together to rebuild the war-torn nation in the wake of his re-election victory.

Mr. Rajapaksa spoke on Wednesday in his first comments since he was declared the winner in a hard-fought presidential election. His challenger has rejected the results.

He said that no matter who people voted for, he would work as the president of the whole nation.

(See related link for official all-island results)

B. Muralidhar Reddy adds

The incumbent Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, seeking a second endorsement two years ahead of his first tenure, registered a landslide victory against his chief opponent and the opposition consensus nominee retired General Sarath Fonseka.

A report posted on the Government Information Department Web site www.news.lk said that as per the results released so far, Mr. Rajapaksa leads in the 2010 presidential elections with 59.73 per cent of the votes while his rival General Sarath Fonseka has obtained 38.71 per cent of the votes.

"The President is now marching forward with confidence towards a massive victory over his rival, the retired military General Sarath Fonseka, not only sweeping Gen. Fonseka on postal votes but also at the electorate level in a handsome manner.

"The President swept Gen. Fonseka in the latter's birth place at Ambalangoda, an electorate much boasted by Fonseka of a resounding win for him. Rajapaksa continues to extend his fortune of victory to all parts of the country covering all zones."

The report further said the stronghold of Colombo that backs Gen. Fonseka with an alliance is predicted to fall into the hands of the President at any time when the results are announced. "Mr. Rajapaksa's overall lead on Gen. Fonseka is well over 65 per cent with Gen. Fonseka battling to save face of a humiliating defeat having talked proud during the polls campaign."

In contrast to the upbeat mood evident in the President’s camp, the opposition has gone silent. The last news update posted on the main opposition, the United National Party (UNP) Website www.unp.lk was over ten hours ago.

The only report posted on January 26 under the title 'Presidential candidate General Fonseka answers Govt.’s mudslinging and vilification' talked about the controversy on the former Army Chief not enrolling himself as a voter.

Information available so far suggests that barring two of the 21 districts, Jaffna and Batticoloa, for which the results and trends are known, President Rajapaksa has secured more than comfortable majority. The retired General, who was expected to do well particularly among the postal voters, consisting mostly of government servants and military personnel, appeared in the early hours of Wednesday, taken by surprise at the outcome.

Gen. Fonseka takes shelter in hotel

Hours after the polling ended at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Gen. Fonseka chose to take shelter in a five star hotel along with the leader of the Opposition and the chief of the main opposition party Ranil Wickremesinghe.

"The results in all these districts have been manipulated by the Rajapaksa Government. They want to rig the popular will of the people. I appeal to the foreign missions based in Colombo to take note of the serious electoral malpractices and intervene even at this late stage," he told The Hindu in an informal interaction in the early hours of Wednesday.

The General charged that the government has chalked out plans to go against the popular mandate of the people and place him under detention. "Their ultimate aim is to eliminate me from politics and the globe. There is a grave danger to the democracy in the island nation. I appeal to the heads of the foreign missions based here to wake up to the ground realities and prevail upon the President to accept the reality and hand over the power."

"The Government with the aid of the military and the police intend to surrender my and the Leader of the Opposition House and office. They want to place me and Mr. Wickremesinghe under arrest. The incumbent President is brazenly violating the provisions of the Constitution and the electoral laws."

Asked as to what his next course of his action would be, the retired General said he is waiting for an opportunity to be free. "I am sure once my supporters and the religious leaders realise the fraud, they would take to streets."

Gen. (retd) Fonseka said he was disgusted with the attitude of the government and his only hope now was intervention from the outside. However, the government dismissed claims of the former Army Chief as cheap propaganda and said that in the face of inevitable defeat, the General and those backing him are resorting to cheap tactics to bring a bad name to the government.

Asked for a response Lucien Karunanayake, Media Head of the Presidential Secretariat said, "These are ridiculous allegations by a candidate who lost the election by a large margin in a free and fair election acknowledged by the opposition leaders themselves."

“Let us face the reality. As the voting was in progress, the General and his supporters themselves certified that it is a smooth and peaceful election. We wonder what has made him change his position in the last few hours," Anusha Palipita, Director, Government Department of Information wondered.

A statement posted on the Information Department Website said, "Mahinda Rajapaksa polled a majority of postal votes from the districts of Matara and Trincomalee while Sarath Fonseka got the majority of postal votes from the Jaffna and Batticaloa Districts."

According to tentative statistics released by the Election Commission, more than 70 per cent of the 14 million-plus voters exercised their franchise in the sixth Sri Lankan presidential election on Tuesday. The polling was held from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The counting of postal ballots commenced at 8 p.m. and of the other votes after 10 p.m. in 88 different centres. The final result could be expected by Wednesday afternoon.

The highlight of the day was the 'discovery' that the Opposition consensus nominee, General (retired) Sarath Fonseka, had not enrolled himself as a voter. At a hurriedly convened news conference, senior Ministers and leaders of the ruling combine accused him of taking the people for a ride and said they would move the apex court challenging his eligibility to contest, despite the fact that the Election Commission had ruled his nomination papers to be in order.

Given the high stakes involved for Mr. Rajapaksa, who is seeking a second term two years ahead of his first tenure, and General Fonseka, the peaceful poll came as a big relief to the people of the island nation.

Acknowledgement that the voting was calm came from the former Army Chief at a news conference. He said there was ‘unusual enthusiasm’ among the voters.

Mr. Rajapaksa cast his vote early in the morning at the Madhumalana Rajapaksa Maha Vidayalaya polling centre in Hambantota.

Poor turnout in Tamil areas

In contrast to the high turnout in the majority Sinhalese south, polling in the Northern and Eastern Provinces - parts of which were under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the last election - was poor.

In the presidential poll in 2005, the then Prime Minister Mr. Rajapaksa, who contested on a United Party Freedom Alliance ticket, obtained 4,887,162 votes (50.29 per cent) and the United National Party candidate and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, secured 4,706,366 votes (47.43 per cent). Mr. Wickremesinghe lost mainly due to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran's diktat to Tamils to boycott the election.

Now, political and diplomatic observers are pleased that the election was tension-free, particularly given the apprehensions expressed by the Opposition in the last few days of large scale violence and rigging.

Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, Director, Campaign For Free and Fair Elections, an NGO monitoring the elections, said there were six minor incidents before polling began.

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