COLOMBO: Maithripala Sirisena, the Joint Opposition Candidate in Thursday’s Sri Lankan Presidential election, finally romped home with a 51.28 percent vote, beating incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa who secured 47.58 percent.
While Sirisena secured 6,217,162 votes, Rajapaksa got 5,768, 090 and others took 138,201. Sirisena won with 449,072 votes, a narrow margin given the pro-Sirisena hype that was generated in the run up to the poll.
It was the Tamils of the Northern Province who made the critical difference for Sirisena. Quite unexpectedly, they came out to vote for him in great strength. Over 68 percent of the 700,000-odd votes in the Northern Province was polled in marked contrast to the 2010 elections when Jaffna district saw only 25 percent polling and the four other districts of the Wanni region saw just 40 percent polling.
The Muslims too voted with rare enthusiasm and in large numbers for Sirisena. There was stiff competition among the Sinhalese majority, but in most places Sirisena had a slight edge over Rajapaksa.
Sirisena had a huge gulf to bridge as Rajapaksa had won the 2010 poll grabbing 57 percent of the vote. But he was able to bridge it because a substantial section of the Sinhalese were alienated from Rajapaksa due to his unconcern for them after he won the war against the LTTE.
However, it was no cakewalk for Sirisena as Rajapaksa held sway over a vast section of Sinhalese society and had at his command superior resources, including the vast state machinery.
Ranil to be name PM
It is learnt that the United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will be declared Prime Minister in the Sirisena cabinet. This is as per the MoU signed by Sirisena and the UNP prior to the elections. An announcement of Wickremesinghe’s appointment is expected to be made at Sirisena’s sweating-in ceremony this evening.