When Sri Lanka strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa called elections two years ahead of the schedule in November 2014, he was anticipating an easy victory, which would secure him a third-term as President. Poll results are now in. Sri Lanka has elected former member of the Rajapaksa cabinet and a joint candidate for several opposition forces, Maithripala Sirisena, in the most closely contested elections in the country’s history. Although credited with putting an end to a long, drawn-out insurgency by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 and steady economic growth in the following years, Mr Rajapaksa remained unmoved by calls against consolidation of power, appeasement of his Sinhalese base to the detriment of Muslim and Tamil minorities, and corruption. His increasingly authoritarian approach had also been described as a “one-family-rule”, with brothers and other family members occupying key positions, often leaving even party veterans outside the inner circle.
When the President-elect, Maithripala Sirisena, defected a day after he had met for dinner with Mr Rajapaksa and presented himself as an alternative, the divided opposition, for the first time in over a decade, saw an opportunity to present a real challenge. Mr Sirisena’s populist slogans against co...
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