South Asia

Sirisena deposes Rajapaksa

The newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena takes oath at the Independence Square in Colombo on Friday.

The newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena takes oath at the Independence Square in Colombo on Friday.  

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A decisive victory for common Opposition candidate and a shock defeat for S.Asia's longest ruling strongman

Hours after deposing the seemingly invincible South Asian strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in a historic and close election, his former health minister Maithripala Sirisena on Friday assumed charge as the country’s sixth executive president.

“I will not seek another term in office,” Mr. Sirisena said to the crowd that had gathered at Colombo’s Independence Square for a brief ceremony, arranged at short notice. The supporters saw the statement resonating with his key election promise of abolishing the country's executive presidency. Mr. Sirisena secured 51.28 per cent of the total votes polled, a 3.7 percentage point margin over outgoing President Rajapaksa, who announced snap polls in November, two years ahead of schedule. Thursday’s polls saw a turnout of 81.52 per cent, a substantial increase from the 74.49 per cent recorded in the country's 2010 presidential elections.

It was Mr. Sirisena’s defection to a recently cemented joint opposition that brought momentum to the polls, which until then seemed Mr. Rajapaksa’s entry point to a record third term.

In a rare coming together of ideologically diverse parties, the United National Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe – sworn in as the island’s Prime Minister on Friday – pledged support to the common candidate.

Soon, Mr. Sirisena drew support from the nationalist Jathika Hela Urumaya, Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, and key parties representing the island’s minority Tamils and Muslims. They all apparently had one common agenda – regime change.

In fact, it was the minority parties that contributed significantly to Mr. Sirisena’s vote share in Thursday’s elections, propelling him to Presidency. The votes from the island’s Muslims, northern Tamils and Indian-origin Tamils in the island's Central Province, proved decisive, with the Sinhalese vote bank virtually split between the two key contestants.

Addressing a press conference in Colombo soon after the joint opposition’s victory, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, who has held the position earlier, said: “People want a new political culture.”

Mr. Rajapaksa, after two terms in office, said he respected the people’s verdict and stepped down, assuring Mr. Wickremesinghe of a smooth transition.

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Sri Lanka's presidential elections

UN welcomes constitutional transfer of power

The Secretary-General congratulated the people of Sri Lanka on the successful conclusion of the presidential election, and welcomes the constitutional transfer of power.

The Secretary-General applauds the Sri Lankan Elections Commission for its professionalism in ensuring a peaceful and credible election said a press release. He also commended the efforts of the candidates, including in particular outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa, law enforcement agencies and civil society for upholding and respecting democratic governance.

The Secretary-General said he looked forward to work with President Maithripala Sirisena and the people of Sri Lanka. He affirmed the continuous support of the United Nations for development, reconciliation, political dialogue and accountability in Sri Lanka.







Sri Lanka Presidential polls: Full Coverage



People's verdict: Rajapaksa concedes defeat >Read here


In pictures: A look at the eventful political journey of South Asia's longest-serving leader Mahinda Rajapaksa >Read here


World reacts: Politicos and commentators reacted as clear signs of Maithripala Sirisena's victory in the Sri Lanka Presidential elections started to emerge. Here's what they had to say >Read here


In depth: All you need to know about Maithripala Sirisena >Read here


Timeline: A look into the political history of the island nation from 1956. >Read here


Commentaries: With Maithripala Sirisena recording a resounding victory, we have a few commentators who have voiced their views regarding the people's mandate >Read here




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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 7:07:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/maithripala-sirisena-sworn-in-as-sri-lankas-president/article6772264.ece

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