Official results show Ranil Wickremesinghe polled 134 votes in a three-cornered parliamentary vote, with his main opponent Dullas Alahapperuma getting 82 and leftist Anura Dissanayake just three.
Sri Lanka's six-time prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been overwhelmingly elected president to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the crisis-wracked country and resigned last week.
Official results on Wednesday showed Wickremesinghe polled 134 votes in a three-cornered parliamentary vote, with his main opponent Dullas Alahapperuma getting 82 and leftist Anura Dissanayake just three.
"Our divisions are now over," Wickremesinghe said in a brief acceptance speech in parliament, inviting Alahapperuma "to join me and work together to bring the country out of the crisis we are facing".
He said he hoped to be sworn in later in the day at a simple ceremony within the tightly guarded parliament building.
With the elevation of the 73-year-old to the top job, the current cabinet automatically stands dissolved and he will choose a prime minister to form a new cabinet.
Speaker Mahinda Abeywardana said the attention of the world was focused on the Sri Lankan legislature as it elected a leader to serve the remainder of Rajapaksa's term ending November 2024.
"This is a historic session, not only for parliament but the entire country," Abeywardana said.
All 225 members of Parliament including the speaker were eligible to vote on the ranked-choice ballot. Two members abstained and a few ballots were declared invalid.
READ MORE: Sri Lankan opposition withdraws from presidential race last-minute
Who is Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka’s new president? pic.twitter.com/Ji70xiPTAz— TRT World (@trtworld) July 20, 2022
An economic crisis and a furious public
Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May, hoping to bring stability to a country engulfed in its worst economic crisis in memory.
Wickremesinghe, a seasoned politician with wide experience in diplomatic and international affairs, became acting president after Rajapaksa fled the country last week and resigned by email.
He has been leading crucial talks on an economic bailout package with the International Monetary Fund and was backed by members of the fragmented ruling coalition.
But he is unpopular among voters who view him as a holdover from Rajapaksa’s government. The Rajapaksas' Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, the largest in parliament, backed Wickremesinghe for the presidency.
Sri Lanka's economic crisis has left Sri Lanka’s 22 million people struggling with shortages of essentials including medicine, fuel and food.
And the resulting political crisis has left worries about whether a new government will be enough to fix the economy and placate a public furious at its politicians' failures.
READ MORE: Sri Lanka's ousted leader Rajapaksa defends crisis efforts