Sri Lanka presidential poll: Sajith Premadasa concedes defeat to Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Madhuri Adnal

Colombo, Nov 17: Sri Lanka's ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa Sunday conceded the presidential poll on Sunday and congratulated his main rival, former wartime defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

"It is my privilege to honour the decision of the people and congratulate Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the seventh President of Sri Lanka," Premadasa said.

His statement came as a spokesman for Rajapaksa claimed that the 70-year-old retired lieutenant colonel had won Saturday's vote, before the final results were formally announced.

Earlier on Saturday, Sri Lankans voted to choose a successor to President Maithripala Sirisena amid multiple poll-related incidents, including an attack on the minority Muslim voters, in an election that will decide the future of the country that struggles with security challenges after the Easter Sunday bombings and increasing political polarisation. As many as 12,845 polling stations were set up across the country for 15.9 million voters.

Polls opened at 7 am local time and concluded at 5 pm with overall voter turnout at "almost 80 per cent", the National Elections Commission said. Gampaha district registered the highest number of 1,751,892 voters.

A record 35 candidates were in the fray for the top post with the main contenders being former wartime defence secretary 70-year-old Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the ruling party candidate 52-year-old Sajith Premadasa.

his poll will make record as the election with the largest number of polling stations and the longest 26-inch ballot paper. Counting is on and the final result will be announced on Monday. Outgoing President Maithripala Sirisena made a special address to the nation after the voting closed. "I believe that we were able to hold such a peaceful election because I remained independent," he said.

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