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Sri Lanka - elections

Rajapakse re-elected president over challenger Fonseka

Article published on the 2010-01-28 Latest update 2010-01-28 11:45 TU

People celebrate Rajapaksa's victory in front of the hotel where his rival, Fonseka took shelter(Photo: Reuters)

People celebrate Rajapaksa's victory in front of the hotel where his rival, Fonseka took shelter
(Photo: Reuters)

Mahinda Rajapakse won a second term after official results from Tuesday's election gave him 57.9 percent of the popular vote. His opponent and former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, garnered 40.1 percent. Fonseka contested the legality of the poll, accusing Rajapakse of fraud.

The former army general has gone into hiding after, saying he feared threats to his life.  He said that he and the coalition of opposition parties that supported him would file a petition with the Supreme Court to challenge the poll results.

It appears that the credit for defeating the Tiger Tamils in 2009 in a decades-old war went to Rajapakse rather than to his former army chief.  

The 64-year-old president lashed out at critics in Sri Lanka and abroad who had condemned his handling of the final military offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels that ended the decades-old civil war in May.

"The overwhelming mandate given in this election has given the answer to these critics," he said in a statement. "The people of Sri Lanka, democratically and very clearly, have shown that they are now free of threats, free of fear, free of terrorism -- and they have shown they support the measures which have freed them."

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon urged the opposing sides to abide by the official results.

The European Union and the United States have called for an investigation into possible war crimes in the final stages of fighting.  The UN estimates that 7,000 civilians were killed.

 Fonseka, meanwhile, must decide whether to start a political party himself or join an existing one as general elections are planned before April. "Since four million people voted for me, I can't let them down," he said.