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Leading International Players Reacting to the Presidential Election in Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka’s presidential election, held on 16 November, was a noteworthy event in the Indo-Pacific. It was the focus of attention in nations that happen to be the key participants of the political game being played in the region. And their reasons are obvious.

Along with a number of other island nations in the Indian Ocean (such as the Maldives), Sri Lanka occupies a strategically important position along one of the largest maritime trade routes linking the Persian Gulf and the east coast of Africa to India, Southeast Asian countries, China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. And the battle for control over this shipping lane, the leading world players are engaged in, has been getting more and more noticeable in recent years. Moreover, this confrontation is becoming a key component of the global “Big Game”.

The New Eastern Outlook has reported on various manifestations of this rivalry, for instance, the political crisis in the Maldives at the start of 2018 () and the issues linked to the lease of the Hambantota Port (on the southern tip of Sri Lanka) to China.

In India (Sri Lanka’s closest neighbor) and China, the presidential campaign on the island was followed very closely. This was due to the fact (among others) that, within the political framework of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, the president is endowed with substantial powers and serves as the head of government and the armed forces.

The nation is among the (overwhelming) majority of countries whose actions on the international arena are primarily guided by the “moves chosen by the stars sitting behind the global chess board”. Still, just as for the other states, its head does have a role to play in the country’s story, and so does the political movement, which this particular individual heads or represents.

There are many parties on the island, but the most influential ones are the center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the more right-wing United National Party, (UNP). During the recent presidential election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a member of the latter, won the majority (52%) of the votes. Sajith Premadasa, who represented SLFP (which had been in power earlier for almost 15 years), received 42% of the votes.

He admitted defeat, and on 18 November, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in as President at a Buddhist temple.

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© New Eastern Outlook