Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat in Sri Lanka’s presidential election, handing power to Maithripala Sirisena after a decade in power.
“He has spoken to the opposition candidate and congratulated him and said he can take over,” Rajapaksa’s spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said by phone today.
Rajapaksa, 69, called the election in November, two years ahead of schedule, in a bid to consolidate power after his party saw its popularity fall in recent by-elections. Sirisena, 63, deserted the president’s camp to head a group of opposition parties.
Rajapaksa’s opponents gained momentum ahead of the vote with a campaign that criticized his moves to scrap term limits and strengthen his grip over the judiciary, military and bureaucracy. Rajapaksa shifted Sri Lanka toward China in the face of U.S. criticism of human rights abuses after he oversaw the end of a 26-year civil war in 2009.