News / Asia

Sri Lanka President Declared Re-Elected, Top Rival Claims Results Rigged



Sri Lanka has declared President Mahinda Rajapaksa the victor over his former top general, Sarath Fonseka, in the country's first peacetime election in decades after the long civil war against the Tamil Tiger rebels.  But the rival to the president is refusing to concede defeat, saying that although voting was peaceful the results have been rigged to give Mr. Rajapaksa another six-year term in office. 

Sri Lanka's Election Commissioner says the incumbent president captured nearly 58 percent of the vote, 17 percent more than the former army commander. 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa called for his former opponents and their supporters to join him in building the country.

Mr. Rajapaksa says from today onward he is the president of everyone, whether they voted for him or not.

But his top rival is having none of it.  Sarath Fonseka told reporters the results have been rigged and displaced minority Tamils, in districts where he enjoyed support, were prevented from voting.

Defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka tells reporters he will not concede, 27 Jan 2010
Defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka tells reporters he will not concede, 27 Jan 2010

He spoke to reporters in the basement of a lakeside hotel in central Colombo, which has been ringed by army troops.

The former military boss who broke with the president after last year's victory against the Tamil Tiger rebels, calls the soldiers surrounding his hotel an ominous sign his personal safety is in danger.

"Now they will try to do something, use the force and try to assassinate me and put the blame on somebody else," he said.

Government officials deny wanting to arrest the losing candidate, but say his personal security detail is mostly composed of army deserters who should be detained.

Asked by VOA News whether a deal, through diplomatic intermediaries, has been struck for him to leave Sri Lanka, Mr. Fonseka denied any such agreement.  But he said he must make his top priority his survival for the sake of his supporters.

"If they are going to assassinate me, to escape that I will take precautions.  If the best option is to leave the country for a short period, temporarily I might have to do that," he said. 

He declined to comment on speculation that the United States is a likely destination.

Both the President and the former General have been hailed as war heroes for the vanquishing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who for decades waged war and a terror campaign to try to create an independent homeland in the North and East.

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