Millions of Sri Lankans cast their vote in an unexpectedly close presidential elections that has the twice jubilant President Mahinda Rajapaksa pitted against an unlikely opponent, his former minister Maithripala Sirisena. While until recently, it was assumed that the current president would win easily, Sirisena's popularity among the citizens of the South Asian island nation has made the seventh presidential elections quite interesting.
10.38 am: Opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe confirms that Sirisena would be sworn in at 6.00 pm on 9 January at Independence Square.
— Azzam Ameen (@AzzamAmeen) January 9, 2015
10.30 am: Minister Mervyn Silva responds to media after meeting with outgoing President Rajapaksa.
10.03 am: Presidential Spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said that incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksha, congratulated President-apparent Sirisena on phone and enquired when he would assume duties.
9.51 am: All island results released so far Maithripala Sirisena 3,974,301 (52.05%) Mahinda Rajapaksa 3,565,849 (46.70%)
9.24 am: Sirisena victorious in Nuwara-Eliya District, Kotmale where 59.48% of the voters cast the ballot in his favour. In Mahanuwara District, Senkadagala and Mahanuwara District, Nawalapitiya also, majority of voters were in favour of Sirisena.
9.00 am: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweets, "I spoke to Shri Maithripala Sirisena & congratulated him. I congratulate the people of Sri Lanka on the peaceful & democratic poll process."
8.59 am: Sirisena wins majority votes in Batticaloa District - Kalkudah, Digamadulla District - Potuvil, Colombo District - Moratuwa, Polonnaruwa District - Minneriya, Nuwara-Eliya Dictrict - Walapane, Batticaloa Dictrict - Batticaloa, Gampaha District - Kelaniya, Mahanuwara District - Hewaheta, Kandy District - Harispattuwa, Colombo District - Colombo North, Mahanuwara District - Udunuwara, Kurunegala District postal polls, Vanni District - Vavuniya, Nuwara-Eliya District - Maskeliya, Kalutara District - Panadura, Badulla District - Welimada, Jaffna District - Manipay, Badulla District - Passara, Kandy District - Gampola, Colombo District - Colombo West, Badulla District - Haputale, Jaffna District - Nallur, Badulla District - Hali-Ela, Jaffna District - Point Pedro, Jaffna District - Kopay, Colombo District - Colombo-East, Mahanuwara District - Kundasale, Batticaloa District - Padiruppu and Jaffna District - Udupiddy.
8.27 am: Maithripala Sirisena , President-to-be to meet his key politicos at 8.30 am to discuss the next cause of action.
7.48 am: "Thank you to everyone who supported us through these years. We respect the voice of the people and Sri Lanka's great democracy," tweeted Namal Rajapaksa, Mahinda's son and a member of parliament.
6.45 am : Signs of clear victory for Sirisena. Rajapaksa assures smooth transition, leaves official residence left Temple Tress after talks with opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe.
5.42 am: Galle District - Bentara-Elpitiya result out; Mahinda Rajapaksa won majority with 42,015 votes (59.08%), while Maithripala Sirisena got 28,287 votes (39.78%).
5.34 am: According to Polonnaruwa District - Medirigiriya poll results, Maithripala Sirisena, with 32,875 votes won the majority (53.89%). In Polonnaruwa as well, Sirisena won 62.86% majority with 72,875 votes.
5.31 am: Kalutara District postal poll results out: Mahinda Rajapaksa wins majority with14,830 votes (53.2%). The incumbent president also won the polls of Trincomalee District - Seruwila with 26,716 votes (51.12%).
5.23 am: Sirisena wins majority in Anuradhapura District Maithripala postal polls with 23,032 votes (53.72%) and Trincomalee District postal polls with 8,323 votes (56.94%). Meanwhile, Rajapaksa won the polls in Colombo postal, with 12,856 votes (51.19%) and Kalutara District postal polls with 14,830 votes (53.2%).
5.03 am: In Matara District - Devinuwara, Hambantota District - Tissamaharama and Ratnapura District - Kalawana, Mahinda Rajapaksa won majority with 35,795 votes (59.32%) 78,546 votes (59.99%) and 32,336 votes (61.5%) respectively. In Trincomalee District - Mutur however, Sirisena won the majority with 57,532 votes (87.54%).
4.47 am: Nuwara-Eliya District Postal Votes in, Maithripala Sirisena leads with 6,699 votes (52.37%) and Mahinda Rajapaksa follows with 6,057 votes (47.35%). In Kandy District Patha-Dumbara as well, Maithripala Sirisena gains the majority votes at 57.79%, while with 26,762 votes Mahinda Rajapaksa only manages 40.87%.
4.30 am: Sirisena enjoys majority in Trincomalee District - Trincomalee with 49,650 votes (79.11%), while Mahinda Rajapaksa won 12,056 votes (19.21%). Rajapaksa surpasses Sirisena in Hambantota District - Mulkirigala by winning 64.58% of the votes and in Galle District - Akmeemana by winning 52.77% of the votes.
4.29 am: According to the Galle District - Balapitiya ballot results, Mahinda Rajapaksa won majority with 23,283 votes (58.45%) and Maithripala Sirisena followed closely with 16,196 votes (40.66%). In Moneragala District - Moneragala as well, Mahinda Rajapaksa won the majority with 50,408 votes (61.69%) and Maithripala Sirisena got 30,381 votes (37.18%).
4.24 am: Mahanuwara District - Mahanuwara results out; Maithripala Sirisena gets majority with 20,316 votes (66.14%) and Mahinda Rajapaksa gets 10,200 votes (33.21%).
4.21 am: Kandy District postal results out: Maithripala Sirisena gets19,100 votes (51.47%) and Mahinda Rajapaksa 17,880 votes (48.18%).
4.20 am: Results Out- Jaffna District - Vaddukkoddai: Maithripala Sirisena : 20,873 (69.58%) and Mahinda Rajapaksa : 7,791 (25.97%). Hambantota District - Beliatta: Mahinda Rajapaksa : 39,513 (63.65%) and Maithripala Sirisena 21,912 (35.29%).Matara District - Weligama; Mahinda Rajapaksa: 40,715 (55.36%) and Maithripala Sirisena 32,247 (43.85%).
4.02 am: Election commission reportedly removed few individuals from inside DS Senanayake college.They are beleived to be Intelligence officers, tweeted BBC reporter Azzam Ameen.
3.32am: Vanni District postal vote results out; Maithripala Sirisena gets 4750 votes (61.24%) and Mahinda Rajapakse 2940 votes (37.91%).
3.22 am: In Katys, Jaffna District, Maithripala Sirisena wins with 8144 votes (55.48%) and Mahinda Rajapakse gets 5959 votes (40.60%).
3.18 am: Chawakachcheri, Jaffna District results: Maithripala Sirisena 23520 votes (77.23%) and Mahinda Rajapakse 5599 votes (18.38%).
3.08 am: Puttalam District results: Maithripala Sirisena gets 4,864 votes (50.58%) and Mahinda Rajapaksa gets 4,721votes (49.09%).
3.05 am: According Gampaha District Postal Votes tally, Maithripala Sirisena won majority votes (20,386) at 49.9%, with Mahinda Rajapakse just behind at 49.7% (20,296 votes).
3.02 am: Total votes so far: Sirisena : 311,117 (56.16%); Mahinda Rajapaksa 236,386 (42.67%)
2.52 am: Badulla in District Badulla saw a total of 43846 valid votes, of which Maithripala Sirisena won 22659 (52.41%) and Mahinda Rajapaksa won 20062 (46.40%).
2.50 am: Of the 44899 votes counted from Wanni District Mullaitive, Maithripala Sirisena won 35441 (78.95%) and Mahinda Rajapaksa won 7935 (17.68%).
2.43 am: Pelmadulla residents vote in favour of Mahinda Rajapaksa, giving him a majority of 50.64% (34,975 votes), while Maithripala Sirisena got 47.92% (33,095 votes).
2.40 am: Sirisena on the lead.
Presidential Election 2015 - Cumulative Results so far pic.twitter.com/TJ9cPxJmnn
— Sri Lanka Rupavahini (@rupavahinitv) January 8, 2015
2.37 am: Digamadulla District Postal verdict out; Maithripala Sirisena wins 11,917 votes at a majority of 54.89%, while Mahinda Rajapaksa gets 9,713 votes (44.74%).
2.24 am: Batticaloa District Postal polls won by Maithripala Sirisena with 6,816 votes (80.55%). Mahinda Rajapaksa with 1,605 votes for the support of 18.97% of the voting population.
2.18 am: Jaffna District Postal results are out; Maithripala Sirisena leads with 10,885 votes (69.17%), Mahinda Rajapaksa follows with 4,607 votes (29.27%).
2.02 am: Maithripala Sirisena gains 62.58% majority in Galle with 39,547 votes, as Mahinda Rajapaksa garners 23,184 votes (36.69%).
1.42 am: Heavy majority for Maithreepala Sirisena with 38856 votes (72.11%) as Mahinda Rajapaksa is left behind with 13300 votes (24.68%) out of the total poll of 55826 votes in Jaffna District Kilinochchi.
1.30 am: Rajapaksa is leading with 100709 votes at 52.19%, and Sirisena is closely following with 91515 votes (47.73%). The gap between the two is 9194 votes.
1.27 am: Slight majority for Mahinda Rajapaksa at 49.94% (13115 votes) against Maithreepala Sirisena's 49.62% (13031) in Badulla District postal votes.
1.19 am: Mahinda Rajapaksa wins majority in Monaragala District Postal Votes with 8281(52.26%) votes, while Maithreepala Sirisena won 7513 (47.41%) votes. 16109 valid votes were countedin this section.
1.06 am: A total of 17069 valid votes were cast in Matale District Postal Votes, of which Mahinda Rajapaksa earned slight majority, with 8483 (50.13%) and Maithripala Sirisena received 8394 (49.60%).
1.01 am: 24032 valid votes were cast in Mathara District Postal polls, of which 13270 (55.87)% went to incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa and 10382 (43.71%) to Maithripala Sirisena.
1.00 am: Of the 30,131 valid votes cast in Galle District Postal Votes, Mahinda Rajapaksa gets a majority of 53.49 % of votes (16,116) and Maithripala Sirisena gets 40.06% (13,879).
12.58 am: Mahinda Rajapaksha leads with 14976 in Kegalle district postal polls, earning him 52.21% of the votes. Maithreepala Sirisena gets 14168 votes, earning him 48.43% of the votes. 29807 postal votes were cast from Kegalle.
12.50 am: Hambanrhota district postal votes out. Mahinda Rajapaksha leads with 10295 64.45%, Maithreepala Sirisena lags behind with 5620 votes.
12.41 am: Polonnaruwa district postal votes out; Maithreepala Sirisena leads with 9480 at 68.42% and Mahinda Rajapaksha gets 4309 votes, leaving him at 31.9%.
11.35 pm: Postal results out: Mahinda Rajapaksa, with 11864 postal votes is leading in Rathnapura district at 56.56%, with Maithreepala Sirisena earning 9053 of the total poll of 21302.
11.27 pm: Daily Ceylon's Zafran M Mansoor tweets that the opposition is leading in Jaffna and Dehiwala. He added that most "unofficial" reports circulated by journalists are not yet confirmed by the election commission.
11.20 pm: According to Hiru News reporter Sandun Arosha F'do, Maithripala Sirisena is leading in Batticaloa , Gampaha and Kaluthata postal vote in Sri Lanka's most peaceful elections ever.
10.22 pm: According to president Rajapaksha's Twitter feed, 26 out of the 31 overall postal votes were won by President Rajapaksa, close to 60%; majority expected in the final count.
10.02 pm: Over 15 million eligible voters cast their ballots. Mathara, Hambanthota and Pollonaruwa postal vote counting has reportedly finished
9.50 pm: Both President Rajapaksa & Opposition Candidate Maithripala Sirisena have returned to the capital city of Colombo after casting their votes.
9.24 pm: Sri Lanka Inspector General of Police appeal to the general public not to break the law and order under election law processions. Reminds that processions and protests prohibited under election law. Warns that Special Task Force will be deployed.
9.06 pm: Lieutenant Yoshitha Rajapaksa President Mahinda Rajapaksha's son tweets a picture of the family relaxing and enjoying a meal together after a hectic month of campaigning. Brother Namal Rajapaksha retweets the picture.
— Namal Rajapaksa (@RajapaksaNamal) January 8, 2015
6.59 pm: Election Commissioner's press conference concludes.
6.54 pm: Counting of ballots will commence at 7.00 pm. Results are expected to be released after midnight
6.46 pm: First postal result can be expected by 10.00 pm on 8 January 2015, confirms the Election Commissioner. The counting ha already begun.
6.42 pm: 328 complaints reported to Election Commission centre. However, no major incidents have been reported from any of the polling centres, which can impact the overall results. Counting will not be suspended at any place, Election commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya said during press release.
— aashikchin (@aashikchin) January 8, 2015
6.37 pm: Opposition Candidate Maithripala Sirisena's home district Polonnaruwa has a voter turnout nearing 80%, according to BBC's Colombo reporter Azzam Ameen.
6.33 pm: Election Commissioner says he will only start counting once all ballot boxes reaches counting centres safely; 7.00 pm would be a safe guess.
6.20 pm: United People's Freedom Alliance and United National Party supporters clash as ballot boxes leave Polling Centre 3, Buttala-CMEV
6.00 pm: Elections commissioner holds a meeting with his officers before a press conference.
5:17 pm: Compared to 2005 & 2010 polls, this election very peaceful, says spokesman Ajith Rohana.
5:15 pm: Voter turnout high at 70%. Turnouts at various places: Anuradhapura - 76%, Monaragala- over 75%, Polonnaruwa- 75% and Kegalle-over 70%. Highest number of voters at Ratnapura at 84%.
— Sri Lanka (@SriLanka) January 8, 2015
Since the closing of the polls around 4.24 pm (IST), people have been waiting for the results of one of the most closely called elections in the history of Sri Lanka. If Rajapaksa wins, it would the first time in the country's history that a president is serving three terms and if he loses, it would be the first time an incumbent is losing presidential poll.
A total of 12,314 polling stations have been installed in the 22 administrative districts. Although Local election monitors had reported that voters in northern Sri Lanka were prevented from casting their ballots, overall the elections are considered peaceful.
Mahinda Rajapaksa allies in India
While many Indians, especially Tamillians vehemently oppose the 69-year-old, who ambitiously hopes for an unpreecedented third term in the office, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has openly wished him well for the 2015 elections.
Even Bollywood superstar Salman Khan earned ire of Tamil supporter of the LTTE when he endorsed Rajapaksa last week, along with his "Kick" co-star and Sri Lankan-born beauty queen Jacqueline Fernandez.
This unlikely oponent of Rajapakasa was general-secretary of Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Freedom Party, and health minister in his cabinet until a couple of months back. Although there are 19 candidates running for presidency, Sirisena is the only real competition for the current president. His main selling point is that according to popular opinion his opponent is trying to make the Sri Lankan goverment a family business.
People also seem to want a change from Rajapaksa's regime that has lasted over a decade.