Ranil Wickremesinghe, 73, was elected as the new President of Sri Lanka today with the backing of the Rajapaksa family controlled SLPP, the largest bloc in the country’s 225-member parliament that cast its secret ballot.
He defeated party rebel Dullus Alahapperuma, with 134 votes to 82 in the parliamentary vote on Wednesday despite being unpopular with the public. Alahapperuma was supported by the opposition parties.
As acting president, Wickremensighe has extended a state of emergency that gives police and security forces sweeping powers.
Sri Lanka's parliament voted to elect a new president to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country last week after his palace was stormed by angry protesters. He later sent his resignation letter from Singapore.
According to analysts, Wickremesinghe's hardline stance against demonstrators was going down well with MPs who had been at the receiving end of mob violence, and most SLPP legislators voted for him.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, a six-time former prime minister who became acting president after his predecessor resigned, but is hated by the protesters who see him as a Rajapaksa ally.
His main opponent in the vote was SLPP dissident and former education minister Dullas Alahapperuma, a former journalist who was being supported by the opposition.
Ahead of the voting to elect Sri Lanka’s new President today, Leader of Opposition Sajith Premadasa has made a request to India to keep supporting the island nation irrespective of who is elected to the top post.
Mr Premdasa, the leader of Sri Lanka's Opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya, tweeted last evening, "Irrespective of who becomes the President of Sri Lanka tomorrow it is my humble and earnest request to Hon. PM Shri @narendramodi, to all the political parties of India and to the people of India to keep helping mother Lanka and it's people to come out of this disaster."
Premadasa withdrew from the presidential race in favour of Alahapperuma. He tweeted that "for the greater good of my country that I love and the people I cherish" his party will support Dullas Alahapperuma, a former media minister.
The third candidate was Anura Dissanayake, 53, leader of the leftist People's Liberation Front (JVP), whose coalition has only three MPs.