70 years old former Sri Lanka’s wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa has won the presidential election that has split the country along ethnic lines.
Official results showed Mr. Rajapaksa, took 52.25% of the vote and his closet rival Sajith Premadasa had already conceded.
Mr. Rajapaksa was the clear victor in Sinhalese majority areas while Mr. Premadasa scored better in the Tamil-dominated north.
The election is Sri Lanka’s first since the deadly Easter Sunday attacks where Militants linked to the Islamic State group targeted churches and high-end hotels across the island in April, killing more than 250 people. As a result, national security was seen as a dominant issue ahead of the vote.
Mr Rajapaksa, who has positioned himself as a strong figure who can assure Sri Lankans’ security, is a highly controversial figure among the country’s more than two million Tamils.
He and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former president, spearheaded the defeat of separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, ending a decades-long war in which at least 100,000 people died.
Several journalists who were critics of the government when the Rajapaksas led Sri Lanka from 2005-2015 were abducted, tortured and killed. Thousands of people, particularly Tamils, vanished in what have been described as enforced disappearances.
Votes appeared to be starkly divided between the Sinhala Buddhist majority and minority Tamil, Hindu and Muslim groups, raising fears about the future of reconciliation in a country that remains heavily polarized along ethnic and religious lines a decade after the end of the bitter war.
Mr Rajapaksa in his winning acceptance speech call for unity in the country.”It is my duty to serve all Sri Lankans without racial or religious discrimination,” he said. “I promise to discharge my duties in a fair manner.”