Rajapaksa claims victory in Sri Lanka election

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Sri Lanka’s former wartime defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has won the presidency with a clear majority, his spokesman told AFP on Sunday, a day after the polls.

“We got between 53 to 54 percent (of the vote),” Keheliya Rambukwella said as official results showed the 70-year-old heading to victory in Saturday’s fiercely contested election.

Rajapaksa, the main opposition candidate, was leading with 52.87 percent while housing minister Sajith Premadasa had 39.67 percent out of half a million votes counted, according to the Election Commission.

Leftist Anura Kumara Dissanayake was in third place with 4.69 percent. There were 32 other candidates for the top job.

Commission chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said at least 80 percent of the 15.99 million eligible voters participated in Saturday's poll, which was marred by isolated violence that left several people injured.

Rajapaksa, 70, was leading in the island's majority Sinhalese areas while Premadasa showed strong support from among the island's minority Tamil community in the northern and eastern regions.

Premadasa, 52, from the liberal United National Party (UNP), is the son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa.

The election is the first popularity test of the UNP-led government since the April 21 suicide bomb attacks that killed at least 269 people and were blamed on local extremists.

The government had faced severe criticism for failing to prevent the attacks despite prior warnings.

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