A former cabinet colleague of Rajapaksa and General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, 63-year-old Sirisena was leading with about 56 percent of the nearly 600,000 votes counted so far, with Rajapaksa trailing at 41 percent.

About 75 per cent of the 15.04 million electorate voted in election called two years ahead of schedule by Rajapaksa who was confident of securing a record third term.

Sirisena took strong lead from the ethnic Tamil-dominated and Muslims-dominated areas.

READ: Sri Lanka presidential election: Rajapaksa concedes defeat to Sirisena

The Tamils, who account for 13 per cent, angered by Rajapaksa's successful military campaign that crushed the LTTE voted for the opposition unity candidate Sirisena.

Hailing from the rural north central province, Sirisena does not speak English, is ever seen in the national dress.

He has no background of hobnobbing with the Colombo elite and socialites. No old boy of a leading Colombo school, he was more than a match for Rajapaksa's rural appeal.

69-year-old Rajapaksa left his official residence this morning, with cumulative results showing Sirisena ahead.

"President Rajapaksa left Temple Trees bowing to the people's mandate in the presidential election", a statement from the President's office said.

"President had talks with the main opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and conveyed his wish to let the new President take over without any hindrance," it said.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka votes in tightest election in decades

There was no immediate comment from Sirisena, who was still at his private home in Polonnaruwa, 215 kilometres east of the capital Colombo. There were 19 candidates in the fray. But the main fight was between two-term president Rajapaksa and Sirisena.

Of the 160 poling divisions, results for 19 poling divisions have been announced. Rajapaksa has won only six.

Rajapaksa, who has been accused of running a family rule and turning the country into an authoritarian regime, will be regretting for calling the snap poll two years ahead of schedule.

Sirisena has won with the huge margin in almost all the poling divisions in the embattled Northern and the Eastern provinces. Officials said Sirisena's native place Pollonaruwa and plantation Nuwara Eliya districts had recorded 80 percent voter turnout.

The veteran politician was taken by surprise by the candidacy of Sirisena, who walked out of the government a day after polls were called. That set off a wave of political turmoil and energised a long-dispirited opposition that had not been looking forward to the election.

Rajapaksa was the undisputed leader of Lanka for nearly a decade. But the country is grappling with divisions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority groups.


ALSO READ: President Rajapaksa faces toughest challenge as Sri Lanka goes to polls

The Opposition campaign had accused Rajapaksa of nepotism, misrule, corruption and authoritarianism.

Rajapaksa's brothers - Gotabhaya and Basil - were defence and economic ministers respectively besides a number of his family members who were holding key posts and positions.

Sirisena backed by the main opposition United National Party and another key breakaway group the JHU or the Buddhist Monk party have plans for a series of constitutional and democratic reforms.

Mahinda Rajapaksa congratulates Sirisena

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday congratulated opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena on his victory in the presidential election. Earlier, President Mahinda Rajapaksa left his official residence Temple Trees after meeting Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and the cabinet and assuring a smooth transfer of power.

PM Modi congratulates Maithripala Sirisena

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday called up Maithripala Sirisena to congratulate him on his victory in Sri Lankan Presidential polls and reaffirmed India's continued solidarity and support.

In a tweet, Narendra Modi said, “I spoke to Shri Maithripala Sirisena & congratulated him. I congratulate the people of Sri Lanka on the peaceful & democratic poll process”@narendramodi.

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