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Six-time PM Wickremesinghe wins Sri Lanka presidency

 Six-time PM Wickremesinghe wins Sri Lanka presidency

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Sri Lanka's six-time prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was on Wednesday overwhelmingly elected as president to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa who fled the crisis-wracked country and resigned last week.

Official results 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 -- giving him an absolute majority on first preferences.

Earlier, Sri Lanka's parliament began voting for a president to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled abroad after his palace was stormed by angry protesters now bracing for a crackdown from his likely successor.

One by one, the legislators entered ballot booths set up on the floor of the chamber to choose between three candidates to lead the crisis-wracked country.

The winner will take charge of a bankrupt nation that is in bailout talks with the IMF, with its 22 million people enduring severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

Outside the parliament, hundreds of heavily armed troops and police stood guard, but there were no signs of demonstrators.

Months of demonstrations over an unprecedented economic crisis culminated in Rajapaksa announcing his resignation from Singapore last week, days after troops rescued the leader from his besieged compound.

His departure wounds a once-powerful ruling clan that has dominated Sri Lankan politics for most of the past two decades, after his brothers also quit their posts as premier and finance minister earlier this year.

Wickremesinghe, 73, has the backing of the Rajapaksas' SLPP, the largest bloc in the 225-member parliament, in the election.

As acting president, Wickremesinghe has extended a state of emergency that gives police and security forces sweeping powers, and last week he ordered troops to evict protesters from state buildings they had occupied.