South Asia

Ranil Wickremesinghe Wins Sri Lanka's Presidential Election

Many protesters see Wickremesinghe as an ally of the Rajapaksa family.

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New Delhi: Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe has won the presidential election held in the Sri Lankan Parliament with 134 votes. Dullas Allahaperuma received 82 votes and Anura K Dissanayake received three votes.

“I thank parliament for this honour,” the 73-year-old said after his victory was announced by the secretary-general of the legislature.

In Wednesday morning’s election, 223 out of 225 MPs in the Sri Lankan Parliament cast their votes, while two abstained. For of the votes cast rejected as invalid, so 219 votes decided the contestants’ fate.

Two of the MPs voting, Samanpriya Herath and D. Weerasinghe, came from the hospital where they are currently undergoing treatment. Two of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s brothers, including former prime minister and president Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as a nephew were in attendance as well.

Voting was conducted through a secret ballot.

Many protesters see Wickremesinghe as an ally of the Rajapaksa family, and his private house and office were also stormed by people demanding his ouster.

Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, became acting president last week after Rajapaksa fled on a military plane to the Maldives and then took a commercial flight to Singapore. With him now being elected the eight executive president of Sri Lanka, it is likely that the protests will gain steam again.

Wickremesinghe was the clear frontrunner, but former media minister Dullas Alahapperuma was expected to make a stronger showing after the leader of opposition Sajith Premadasas withdrew from the race in his favour.

Many independent and minority political parties, including the Tamil National Alliance, have pledged their support for Alahapperuma since Premadasa’s withdrawal. But he is not supported by the majority of the former ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmakers.

In the morning on Wednesday, TNA leader M.A. Sumanitharan strongly disputed reports in a newspaper that the Indian high commission had asked them to vote against Wickremesinghe’s rival candidate. This was followed by denial from the Indian high commission too.

Hundreds of police, paramilitary and military troops were deployed around the parliament building, about 13 km away, and an approach road had at least three barricades. Security personnel in speed boats patrolled a lake around the building, and military jeeps and armoured vehicles stood parked within the perimeter.

Protesters occupied the presidential secretariat earlier this month along with the official president’s residence, forcing the then incumbent Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country.

(With Reuters inputs)