0139 GMT December 12, 2019
The candidate for Sri Lanka’s ruling United National Party (UNP), Sajith Premadasa, on Sunday acknowledged defeat in the poll and congratulated Rajapaksa, Press TV reported.
“At the conclusion of a hard-fought and spirited election campaign, it is my privilege to honor the decision of the people and congratulate Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the seventh President of Sri Lanka,” Premadasa said in a statement on Sunday.
With half of the ballots counted, Rajapaksa, from the nationalist party of Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), is leading with nearly 51 percent of the votes, and Premadasa is trailing with nearly 44 percent.
Rajapaksa’s representatives declared him the winner of the presidential race, although most electoral constituency votes had not been declared and the electoral commission had not officially announced the final result.
“It is a clear win. We envisaged it. We are very happy that Gota will be the next president. He will be sworn in tomorrow or the day after,” said his spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella.
Rajapsaka also said in a statement on Twitter that “even though the official results are not out yet, we are now crossing the victory line.”
The former defense minister had based his election campaign on providing strong leadership on national security issues, following coordinated bombings in April that left over 250 people dead.
Authorities say 80 percent of the 16 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the election, which was held on Saturday. A record number of 35 candidates contested for the top position.