Tamil Diplomat

UNP claims victory as Rajapaksa faces setback

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has claimed victory in the island’s parliamentary elections and called on the country to unite.

Initial results suggest that his United National Party has won enough seats to form a coalition with its allies.

This would thwart former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s hopes of returning to office as prime minister.

Turnout in Monday’s polls was high, in what was widely seen as a referendum on Mr Rajapaksa.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Wickremesinghe said: “The majority of this country have voted to consolidate the gains of the 8 January revolution.”

“Now it is no longer necessary to be divided as winners and losers. We need to unite as one family to create a new political culture in this country.”

Final official results are yet to be officially announced, but correspondents say Mr Wickremesinghe’s UNP party looks set to win at least 106 seats in the 225-member parliament.

Mr Rajapaksa lost the presidency in January to his former health minister, Maithripala Sirisena.

He ran as a parliamentary candidate for the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in Monday’s elections – hoping to secure enough support to force President Sirisena to name him as prime minister.

However, the UNP is expected to have enough seats to form a national unity government, backed by Mr Sirisena’s allies.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Rajapaksa appeared to concede defeat, telling AFP: “My dream of becoming prime minister has faded away.”

However, he later said on Twitter that he would await official results before making a statement. (BBC News)