2019 Sri Lankan presidential election

Presidential elections were held in Sri Lanka on 16 November 2019.[1][2] The incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena's term of office would have ended on 9 January 2020. This was the first presidential election in Sri Lanka where no sitting president, prime minister or opposition leader ran for president. Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the election in a landslide victory, defeating his main opponent Sajith Premadasa.[3]

2019 Sri Lankan presidential election

16 November 2019
Turnout83.72% (2.20pp)
Candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa Sajith Premadasa
Alliance SLPFA NDF
Popular vote 6,924,255 5,564,239
Percentage 52.25% 41.99%

Results by polling division

President before election

Maithripala Sirisena

Elected President

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The results were announced on 17 November 2019, and Rajapaksa managed to cross the majority mark to win the election.[4] The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2024. Snap indirect elections would be held in 2022 after Rajapaksa's resignation.

Electoral system

The President of Sri Lanka is elected via limited ranked voting. Voters can express up to three ranked preferences for President. If no candidate receives over 50% of valid votes on the first count, all candidates except for the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes are eliminated. The second and third preferences of the eliminated candidates are distributed until one of the remaining two candidates receives an outright majority.[5] In practice, this system has seen little use, as each direct election going back to the first in 1981 has resulted in a candidate from one of the two major parties or alliances at the time winning in the first count. For this reason, many citizens opt to mark only one candidate, and many are wholly unaware that multiple candidates can be ranked at all.[6]


  • 9 January - President Maithripala Sirisena eligible to call for presidential elections anytime after this date.[2]
  • 31 January - President Sirisena is approved unanimously as the Sri Lanka Freedom Party's candidate during the Party's Anuradhapura district convention.[7][8]
  • 6 March - Gotabaya Rajapaksa submits application through the United States Embassy to renounce his US citizenship.[9]
  • 26 March - Gotabaya Rajapaksa travels to the United States for a personal visit, where he also expects to expedite his request to renounce his citizenship.[9][10]
  • 7 April - While in the United States, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is served with notice of two separate civil lawsuits against him in California, USA, over the assassination of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge as well as on behalf of a Tamil torture survivor Roy Samathanam.[11][12]
  • 12 April - Gotabaya Rajapaksa returns to Sri Lanka from the United States.[13]
  • 21 April - 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings
  • 27 April - Gotabaya Rajapaksa announces he will run for president.[14]
  • 11 August - Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Sri Lanka Podujana Party officially announces Gotabaya Rajapaksa to be its presidential candidate.[15]
  • 12 August - Several members of the United National Party organized a rally in Badulla to promote Sajith Premadasa as the UNP candidate even though the party has yet to name an official candidate. Sajith Premadasa clearly shows his intentions to run for the presidency.[16] All UNF mp's in Badulla attend to this rally, also Harsha , Eran , Ajith, Sujeewa, Ranith, Ranjith Aluwihare, Wasantha Aluwihare, Chandrani, Buddhika, Hesha, Ashok, and several mp's attended to it.
  • 18 August - Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka announced as the presidential candidate of the newly formed political alliance "National People's Power" in a rally held at Galle Face.[17]
  • 23 August - Huge rally in Matara, which is organized by Mangala Samaraweera to pledge support to Sajith as UNP candidate.
  • 5 September - Huge rally in Kurunegala, which is organized by all Kurunegala UNP mp's except Akila to support to Sajith as UNP candidate.
  • 5 September - Sri Lanka Freedom Party has informed the Elections Commission that they will be fielding a candidate for the upcoming presidential election[18]
  • 6 September - Prime minister and the leader of United National Party, Ranil Wickremesinghe reportedly expressed his intentions to be the presidential candidate of his party.[19]
  • 15 September - The National Elections Commission gets the power to call for a Presidential Election at any time[20]
  • 18 September -Department of government printing Sri Lanka gazetted an extraordinary gazette, no 2141/25 as the and noticed 7 October 2019 as date of nominations and, 16 November as the date of election with the consultation of the election commission Sri Lanka.
  • 24 September 2019 - Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe agreed to nominate UNP Deputy Leader minister Sajith Premadasa as the Presidential Candidate of the United National Front but need to be approved by the working committee of the party.[21]
  • 26 September 2019 - United National Party schedule its working committee meets at Sirikotha to select its candidate by party law.[22]
  • 26 September 2019 - Working committee of United National Party unanimously decided Sajith Premadasa as presidential candidate.
  • 29 September 2019 - Sri Lanka's ex-Army chief Mahesh Senanayake announced that he would contest for president under a non political National People's Movement (NPM), a collective of island-wide civil society organisations.[23]
  • 30 September -The Court of Appeal has decided to support the petition against recognizing former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa as a citizen of Sri Lanka on October 2.[24]
  • 1 October - Gotabaya Rajapaksa seek court permission to travel to Singapore from 9 to 12 October for a medical issue.[25]
  • 2 October - A three-judge bench of the Court of Appeal has commenced the petition filed against recognizing former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa as a Sri Lankan citizen.[26]
  • 3 October - United National Party holds its National Convention at the Sudathasada Indoor Stadium to officially name Sajith Premadasa as candidate to the public.[27]
  • 4 October - Charges against Gotabaya Rajapaksa's citizenship issue was dismissed by the court and allowed him to contest at the upcoming election.[28][29]
  • 5 October - The first ever Presidential debate among candidates took place.[30] All the main candidates except Gotabaya Rajapaksa took part in the event.[31]
  • 7 October - Nomination for the next president at 9.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. 33 candidates are set to be nominated.[32]
  • 9 October - Sri Lanka Freedom Party pledge to support SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa.[33]
  • 15 October - Sri Lanka Muslim Congress pledge its support to Sajith Premadasa[34]
  • 15 October - Tamil Progressive Front pledge to support to Sajith Premadasa.[35]
  • 18 October - Ceylon Workers' Congress pledge to support SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa.[36]
  • 18 October - Jathika Hela Urumaya holds National convention to announce its support to Sajith Premadasa.[37]
  • 4 November - Tamil National Alliance pledge support to Sajith Premadasa[38]
  • 5 November - SLFP Former President and daughter of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, Chandrika Kumaratunga pledge support to Sajith Premadasa.[39][40]
  • 16 November- Election for the next president at 7.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.[32][41]
  • 17 November 2019 - President Maithripala Sirisena's 1st term of office ends.[2]
  • 18 November 2019 - Gotabaya Rajapaksa is inaugurated at Ruwanwelisaya.
  • 20 November 2019 - Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe resigns.[42]
  • 21 November 2019 - President appoints his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister.

Prior to the election

Sri Lankan recent election results
Dates of elections United National Party
Sri Lanka Freedom Party
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Tamil National Alliance Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Independents
Votes  % Votes  % Votes  % Votes  % Votes  % Votes  % Votes  %
2015 Presidential election 6,217,162 51.28% [lower-roman 1] 5,768,090 47.58%
2015 Parliamentary election 5,098,916 45.66% [lower-roman 2] 4,732,664 42.38% 515,963 4.62% 543,944 4.87% 44,193 0.40% 42,828 0.38%
2018 local elections 3,640,620 29.42% 1,497,234 12.10% 5,006,837 40.47% 337,877 2.73% 710,932 5.75% 92,897[lower-roman 3] 0.75% 374,132 3.02%
Sri Lankan political map prior to this election
Presidential election, 2015 Parliamentary election, 2015
Elected members of each electoral district or municipalities, gaining the highest number of votes:

Poll prediction

Both main candidates have had their own surveys carried out with the results claiming victory for each of them.[43] Earlier circulated polls prediction which was claimed done by National Intelligence Service was proved false and manipulated.[44]


Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna

After the massive victory they won in Local Elections, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna intended to run for the presidential election, with Chamal, Basil and Gotabaya all being mentioned as credible prospects.[45][46] Calls for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to run were made even though he was ineligible to run due to his possession of foreign citizenship.[47] Basil Rajapaksa also held foreign citizenship and was therefore ineligible.[45] On 12 January Gotabaya announced he was ready to run in the elections if he had the support for it,[48][49] though his announcement stunned senior SLPP leaders.

Chamal Rajapaksa had also signaled his potential candidacy saying he would "willingly consider it if the party nominates him as the next presidential candidate", soon after the announcement made by his brother. Chamal Rajapaksa could not decide whether to contest from the SLFP or the SLPP but preferred a candidate that has the support of both. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was a leading figure in the war victory of Sri Lanka and the development process of the Colombo metro region and the Northern Province.[50][51][52]

In March, Chamal denied that neither him nor Basil would contest but avoided commenting about Gotabaya. Meanwhile the SLPP announced that they favoured Gotabaya unless someone better is found.[53]

Gotabaya Rajapaksa already had a well organized campaign promoting him and according to D. B. S Jeyaraj, the Rajapaksa family had chosen to support Gotabaya as the candidate and is renouncing his US citizenship.[54]

Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced he would run for presidency on 11 April, six days after the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings.[14] On 11 August Mahinda Rajapaksa and the SLPP officially announced that his brother Gotabaya would be its presidential candidate, while Mahinda would run as his Prime Ministerial candidate.[15][55][56]

United National Party (UNP)

The United National Party did not field a presidential candidate in either the 2010 and 2015 elections and supported a common candidate in both elections. Even though they won the 2015 election and elected Maithripala Sirisena from their support, UNP expenditure for the election period is 500lkr million relations between the president and the UNP was shaky from the beginning. The power struggle between the president and UNP prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe led to the 2018 Sri Lankan constitutional crisis. In the aftermath of the events, most of the UNP members publicly expressed their regret supporting a common candidate in 2015 and promised to field their own presidential candidate in the 2019 elections.

Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was the obvious choice for the candidacy and he reportedly expressed his intentions to run for the presidency in a meeting with other senior members.[19] Meanwhile, several rebel MPs including Mangala Samaraweera, Harin Fernando, Ajith Perera, Harsha de Silva and Sujeewa Senasinghe wanted deputy leader Sajith Premadasa as the UNP candidate, and organized a rally in Badulla where Premadasa himself openly expressed his intentions to be the UNP candidate[57]

With the growing support for the deputy leader Sajith Premadasa and party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe refusing to make a move, speaker of the parliament Karu Jayasuriya released a statement signaling his intention to run for presidency to end the confusion and avoid a rift within the party[58] However, the Sajith faction showed that they had the popular support among party members and followers by organizing successful rallies in Matara[59] Kurunegala[60] and Matugama.[61]

On 26 September 2019, the working committee of the United National Party unanimously picked Sajith Premadasa as the UNP presidential candidate. Announcing the official statement, general Secretary of the UNP Akila Viraj Kariyawasam told that Ranil Wickremesinghe will continue to function as the Prime Minister and the leader of the UNP.

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)

President and leader of the SLFP Maithripala Sirisena was eligible to run for a second term. Although he had previously stated that he would only serve a single term, after being sworn in in 2015, he had since expressed his desire to stay for a second term.[62][63] However, with many party seniors choosing to support the newly formed Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna led by former SLFP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, the SLFP was weakened and suffered a heavy loss in the 2018 Sri Lankan local elections, thus losing the credibility it had as the main opposition to the UNP.

The SLFP pledged to support SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 9 October.[33]

National People's Power (NPP)

The National People's Power party announced Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka as their candidate in a massive rally on 18 August at Galle Face.[64][65]


35 candidates submitted their nominations on 7 October to the election commission.[66]

Candidate Party Backed By Notes
1 Sajith Premadasa
New Democratic Front
2 Gotabaya Rajapaksa Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna
  • Brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa
  • Secretary for the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development (2005-2015)
3 Anura Kumara Dissanayaka National People's Power
  • Leader of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (2014–present)
  • Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Land and Irrigation (2004-2005)
  • Chief Opposition Whip (2015-2018)
4 Mahesh Senanayake National People's Party
  • National Peoples Movement
  • Former Commander of Sri Lanka Army (2017-2019)
5 Ajantha Perera Socialist Party of Sri Lanka
  • Socialist Party of Sri Lanka
  • Founder, National Programme on Recycling of Solid Waste [67][68]
6 Rohan Pallewatte National Development Front
  • Executive Chairman of Lanka Harness Co. (Pvt) Ltd
7 Duminda Nagamuwa Frontline Socialist Party
  • Frontline Socialist Party
  • Propaganda Secretary of the Frontline Socialist Party.
  • Contested in 2015 Presidential election receiving 9,941 votes.
8 Jayantha Ketagoda Independent
9 Siripala Amarasinghe[70] Independent
10 Aparekke Punnananda Thero Independent
11 Saman Perera Our Power of People Party
12 Ariyawansa Dissanayake Democratic United National Front
13 Sirithunga Jayasuriya United Socialist Party
14 Milroy Fernando Independent
15 Bedde Gamage Nandimithra Nava Sama Samaja Party
16 Vajirapani Wijesiriwardene Socialist Equality Party
17 Sarath Manamendra Nawa Sihala Urumaya
18 A. S. P. Liyanage Sri Lanka Labour Party
19 Samansiri Herath Independent
20 Sarath Keerthirathna Independent
21 Anuruddha Polgampola Independent
22 Samaraweera Weeravanni Independent
23 Ashoka Wadigamangawa Independent
24 Battaramulle Seelarathana Thero Jana Setha Peramuna
25 Illiyas Idroos Mohamed Independent
26 Piyasiri Wijenayake Independent
27 Rajiva Wijesinha Independent
28 Aruna De Soyza Democratic National Movement
29 Ajantha de Zoysa Ruhunu Janatha Peramuna
30 Namal Rajapaksa Nationalities Unity Organization
31 M. K. Shivajilingam Independent
32 M. L. A. M. Hizbullah Independent
33 Priyantha Edirisinghe Okkoma Wasiyo Okkoma Rajawaru Sanwidhanaya
34 Hassan Mohamed Alavi Independent
35 Subramanium Gunaratnam Our National Front


Gotabaya RajapaksaSri Lanka Podujana Peramuna6,924,25552.25
Sajith PremadasaNew Democratic Front5,564,23941.99
Anura Kumara DissanayakaNational Movement for People's Power418,5533.16
Mahesh SenanayakeNational People's Party49,6550.37
M. L. A. M. HizbullahIndependent38,8140.29
Ariyawansa DissanayakeDemocratic United National Front34,5370.26
Ajantha PereraSocialist Party of Sri Lanka27,5720.21
Rohan PallewatteNational Development Front25,1730.19
Siripala AmarasingheIndependent15,2850.12
Milroy FernandoIndependent13,6410.10
M. K. ShivajilingamIndependent12,2560.09
Battaramulle SeelarathanaJana Setha Peramuna11,8790.09
Ajantha de ZoysaRuhunu Janatha Peramuna11,7050.09
Anuruddha PolgampolaIndependent10,2190.08
Namal RajapaksaNational Unity Alliance9,4970.07
Jayantha KetagodaIndependent9,4670.07
Duminda NagamuwaFrontline Socialist Party8,2190.06
Aparekke PunnanandaIndependent7,6110.06
Subramanium GunaratnamOur National Front7,3330.06
A. S. P. LiyanageSri Lanka Labour Party6,4470.05
Piyasiri WijenayakeIndependent4,6360.03
Aruna de ZoysaDemocratic National Movement4,2180.03
Rajiva WijesinhaIndependent4,1460.03
Illiyas Idroos MohamedIndependent3,9870.03
Siritunga JayasuriyaUnited Socialist Party3,9440.03
Sarath KeerthirathnaIndependent3,5990.03
Sarath ManamendraNew Sinhala Heritage3,3800.03
Pani WijesiriwardeneSocialist Equality Party3,0140.02
Ashoka WadigamangawaIndependent2,9240.02
A. H. M. AlaviIndependent2,9030.02
Saman PereraOur Power of People Party2,3680.02
Priyantha EdirisingheOkkoma Wesiyo Okkoma Rajawaru Sanwidhanaya2,1390.02
Samaraweera WeerawanniIndependent2,0670.02
Bedde Gamage NandimithraNava Sama Samaja Party1,8410.01
Samansiri HerathIndependent9760.01
Valid votes13,252,49998.99
Invalid/blank votes135,4521.01
Total votes13,387,951100.00
Registered voters/turnout15,992,09683.72
Source: Election Commission

By district

Districts won by Rajapaksa
Districts won by Premadasa
Summary of the 2019 Sri Lankan presidential election by electoral district[71]
AnuradhapuraNorth Central342,22358.97%202,34834.87%35,7756.16%580,3464,916585,262682,45085.76%
KurunegalaNorth Western652,27857.90%416,96137.01%57,3715.09%1,126,6108,5221,135,1321,331,70585.24%
Nuwara EliyaCentral175,82336.87%277,91358.28%23,1284.85%476,8647,155484,019569,02885.06%
PolonnaruwaNorth Central147,34053.01%112,47340.47%18,1116.52%277,9242,563280,487326,44385.92%
PuttalamNorth Western230,76050.83%199,35643.91%23,8605.26%453,9764,478458,454599,04276.53%




Minister Mangala Samaraweera informed President Maithripala Sirisena via a letter that he would step down as Minister of Finance with immediate effect. In the letter, minister Samaraweera stated that the 2019 election was the most peaceful and fair election held in the recent past.[72]

In a tweet, Minister Harin Fernando said, respecting the people's mandate, he will step down as Minister of Sports, Telecommunications and Foreign Employment. He will also be resigning from his positions at the United National Party. “I take this opportunity to thank every one who supported me in my tenure, hope good work done will be continued”, he added.[72]

Non-Cabinet Minister Ajith P. Perera said, respecting the mandate of the people of Sri Lanka, that he has decided to resign from his position as the Minister of Digital Infrastructure and IT with immediate effect. Tagging Sajith Premadasa he added, “It was a well fought battle”, “and the country needs your leadership at this critical time”.[72]

State Minister Ruwan Wijewardene congratulated Gotabaya Rajapaksa via Twitter for his victory in the election and said he will step down as State Minister of Defence. “I hope we will be able to build a nation free of division that unites all communities to take this country forward,” he added.[72]

Minister Kabir Hashim decided after the results were announced to resign as the Chairman of the United National Party and as the Minister of Highways, Road Development and Petroleum Resources Development.[72]

Issuing a statement, Minister Malik Samarawickrama said he will step down as Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade.[73]

Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, Patali Champika Ranawaka, resigned from his ministerial portfolio. In a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, he stated that he took this decision with respect to the people's mandate.[74]

International reaction

Supranational bodies
  •  European Union – A statement was issued noting that Sri Lanka's election process was peaceful and confirmed the stability of the democratic institutions, while adding the EU was looking forward to working with the new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to continue improving human rights, reconciliation and good governance. While congratulating President Rajapaksa, the EU assured that it will remain fully supportive of the broader reform agenda in Sri Lanka.[75]
  •  ChinaForeign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang expressed congratulations on the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.[76]
  •  IndiaPrime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted after Premadasa had conceded defeat, congratulating Rajapaksa.[77]
  •  Japan - Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan announced that Prime Minister ABE Shinzo sent a congratulatory message and that he intends to further develop the Japan-Sri Lanka relationship to H.E. Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the new President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, upon his victory in the presidential election held on 16 November and his inauguration as the new president.[78]
  •  IranForeign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi congratulated the Sri Lankan nation and president-elect on holding presidential elections successfully.[79]
  •  MaldivesPresident Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was the first world leader to congratulate Rajapaksa on his ”resounding election victory".[77]
  •  PakistanForeign Affairs Ministry issued a statement stating: "The Government and leadership of Pakistan warmly felicitate the newly-elected President".[80]
  •  Singapore - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issued a statement stating: "I am confident that you will be able to steward Sri Lanka through these challenges ably, and that Sri Lanka will make progress in achieving lasting peace and prosperity under your Presidency."[81]
  •  Russia - President Vladimir Putin issued a statement stating: "The Russian-Sri Lankan relations are of traditionally friendly nature, I wish you every success, good health and prosperity."[82]
  •  United States – The U.S. Embassy in Colombo in a statement said that "We commend the Elections Commission, civil society and government authorities for promoting a peaceful election. We are ready to continue our work with the new President and with all the people of Sri Lanka in supporting the country's sovereignty through heightened good governance, expanded economic growth, the advancement of human rights and reconciliation, and in fostering an Indo-Pacific region where all countries can prosper."[83]

See also

  • 2019 in Sri Lanka


  1. New Democratic Front candidate led by the United National Party
  2. United National Front for Good Governance figures
  3. The SLMC contested separately in 46 LA's and with the UNF in other LA's.


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