Six-time Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday defeated dissident leader Dullas Alahapperuma and leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake in the presidential election to succeed Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The 73-year-old Sri Lanka leader secured 134 votes in the 225-member House while his nearest rival Alahapperuma got 82. A candidate needed to secure at least 113 votes to win the election. Dissanayake secured just three votes. After the results were announced, Alahapperuma said he accepts the decision of parliament.
“My effort was to support consensus-based policy-making to provide solutions to a deeply suffering population. I believe the space for that still exists and I will continue to work to strengthen that effort and work for the people. This is simply another milestone in my career. I hope that at least now you will cultivate the mentality to listen to the suffering masses,” he added, as quoted by Reuters.
Wickremesinghe will have a mandate to serve out the rest of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in November 2024, given the people of Sri Lanka put faith in the new leadership to resolve the severe economic crisis.
Since Wickremesinghe’s candidature was opposed by many ordinary Sri Lankans, the election outcome could lead to more protests by people furious with the ruling elite. Alahapperuma is seen as more acceptable to the protesters and the opposition. However, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) leader does not have any top-level governance experience in a country which is desperately looking towards the IMF for a bailout package.
“What does it mean for the Aragalaya (struggle)? For one thing, it means that the Aragalaya will have to be satisfied with its primary demand, i.e. resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. It also means that the Aragalaya, in one form or another, will have to find new ways to win our remaining demands. Unlike Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Ranil is not a populist: he’s known to be a ruthless pragmatist. I think the immediate concern is the possible prosecution of leading members of the Aragalaya,” Reuters quoted Chameera Dedduwage, a protest organiser, as saying.
Another contender, Sajith Premadasa, announced withdrawal of his candidacy on Tuesday morning.
“For the greater good of my country that I love and the people I cherish I hereby withdraw my candidacy for the position of President. @sjbsrilanka and our alliance and our opposition partners will work hard towards making @DullasOfficial victorious,” he tweeted.
For the first time in 44 years, the Sri Lanka’s Parliament directly elected a president. Sri Lankans presidents were elected by popular vote in 1982, 1988, 1994, 1999, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2019.
The presidential election was necessitated by the forced resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa who fled to Singapore amid widespread protests against the government.