Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been declared the winner in the country's first peacetime presidential election in decades, but his main rival claims the vote was rigged and has rejected the results.
On Wednesday Sri Lanka's election commission said Mr. Rajapaksa received nearly 58 percent of the vote. The panel said his closest competitor, former military chief Sarath Fonseka, received about 40 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election.
Fonseka charged Wednesday that displaced minority Tamils who supported him were prevented from voting. He also accused President Rajapaksa of plotting to assassinate him. The government has denied the claims. The former military chief spent most of Wednesday in a Colombo hotel that was surrounded by government troops. But Fonseka departed in a vehicle late Wednesday. Sources say he is staying at a "safe house."
President Rajapaksa claimed victory on Wednesday, calling on all Sri Lankans to unite and help rebuild the country. Mr. Rajapaksa and General Fonseka were both proclaimed war heroes for leading the government's decisive victory over Tamil Tiger rebels last year, ending a 25-year civil war.
General Fonseka decided to run against President Rajapaksa after complaining of being pushed aside after the end of the war. The candidates have traded accusations of war crimes, corruption and incompetence. Western diplomats have expressed concern that violence could break out between the rivals' supporters.