Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe announced plans to overhaul his United National Party after its crushing defeat at parliamentary elections, but ruled out his own stepping down.
Wickremesinghe told reporters in Colombo that his party’s defeat was attributable to the record low turn out at Thursday’s election when only about 55 percent of the 14.08 million electorate votes.
"This means the people of this country have lost faith in the government’s ability to hold a free and fair election," Wickremesinghe said. "This is an entirely new situation."
"For the first time, we have a parliament that does not have a mandate from the people. Though the government has a majority they do not have a mandate from the people."
He said many opposition supporters feared that their votes would be stolen. He noted that the UPFA vote had reduced by over a million compared to the presidential elections.
"Normally, the votes of the ruling party increases after a presidential election. That is what we have seen before. But this time it has reduced by over a million votes.
"During the parliamentary election, we were able to speak to the Elections Commissioner and ensure that there were manual systems to ensure any computer fraud. That is probably why they were not able to repeat what they did at the presidential election."
Wickremesinghe said some of the party stalwarts lost because traditional UNP supporters did not vote.
"We will undertake reforms of the party and give more responsibility to the new comers. They will have a bigger role in mobilizing people to ensure democracy is safeguarded.
"What we see is a threat to democracy and media freedoms and we will agitate both inside parliament and outside."
Asked if he would accept responsibility for the UNP defeat and step down, Wickremesinghe said: "I will be the leader. I will step down when I have to. This defeat is because of the very low turn out. It is because people did not have faith in the government. They believed that the election will not be free."
He said there had been wide-spread misuse of state resources for the UPFA campaign