The Sri Lankan presidential election held on 8 January 2015 resulted in the defeat of incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and victory of Maithripala Sirisena. Rajapaksa called for elections two years early, after amending the constitution, in an attempt to win a third presidential term. He secured 47.6% of the votes while Sirisena won 51.3%. Neelam Deo, director at Gateway House, comments on what the election results mean for Sri Lanka and its relationship with India.
“Maithripala Sirisena’s victory in Sri Lanka’s presidential election held on 8 January 2015 is interesting because of the massive support he galvanised not only from the Buddhist Sinhala but also from the minorities – the Sri Lankan Tamils in the North and East, and the Muslim community.
Rajapaksa had a complicated relationship with the Sri Lankan Tamil community due to the violence which accompanied the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka. The politics of Tamil Nadu also complicated Rajapaksa’s relationship with India.
Prime Minister Modi has already congratulated Sirisena, reaffirming India’s support for peace and development in Sri Lanka. It is important to watch Sirisena’s outreach to India now. It is expected that India can look forward to closer relations with Sri Lanka.
In his election campaign, Sirisena expressed that he would not reduce army deployments in the North, but a new outreach to the minorities can follow his decisive election victory.
Since both candidates propounded an open economy, no immediate changes are expected in Sri Lanka’s economic policy.
Close relations with Sri Lanka are imperative for India, particularly in the strategic landscape of South Asia – the increasingly close ties between Beijing and Colombo cannot be ignored. India will need to strike a difficult and delicate balance between its economic interests and the need to emphasise the concerns of the Sri Lankan Tamils.”
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