Sri Lanka's controversial ex-defence chief, accused of human rights violations, wins presidency

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former defence official revered by Sri Lanka's ethnic majority for his role in ending a bloody civil war but feared by minorities for his brutal approach, registered a comfortable victory today in the nation's presidential election.

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Seventy-year-old Gotabaya Rajapaska is accused of committing human rights violations. Source: Breakfast

Elections chief Mahinda Deshapriya announced the official results that Rajapaksa won more than 6.9 million votes in yesterday's election, 1.3 million votes more than his closest rival, Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa.

Rajapaksa's percentage of the vote was 52.25 per cent, well above the 50 per cent plus one vote needed for victory.

Premadasa conceded defeat to Rajapaksa, saying he would honour the decision of the people.

Rajapaksa, the campaign front-runner and former defence secretary under his brother, ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, pledged to restore security to the Indian Ocean island nation still recovering from Islamic State-inspired attacks last Easter that killed 269 people.

The results showcased deep ethnic and religious polarization in a country that has seen decades of conflicts and bloodshed since independence from the British in 1948. Minority Tamils and Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Premadasa, largely to stop a Rajapaksa victory.

President-elect Rajapaksa appeared to try to allay minority skepticism in his speech after the official announcement of results.

"I have fully understood that I am the president of all citizens not only of those who voted for me but also all those who voted against me," he said.

"Therefore I am well aware that I am bound to serve every Sri Lankan irrespective of race or religion."