Sri Lankan presidential election, 1988

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2nd Sri Lankan presidential election
Sri Lanka
1982 ←
19 December 1988 → 1994

Turnout 55.32%
  Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranayaka (1916-2000) (Hon.Sirimavo Bandaranaike with Hon.Lalith Athulathmudali Crop).jpg
Nominee Ranasinghe Premadasa Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Party United National Party Sri Lanka Freedom Party
Home state Colombo District Gampaha District
Popular vote 2,569,199 2,289,860
Percentage 50.43% 44.95%

Sri Lankan Presidential Election 1988.png

Winners of polling divisions. Premadasa in green and Bandaranaike in blue.

President before election

J. R. Jayewardene
United National Party

Elected President

Ranasinghe Premadasa
United National Party

The Sri Lankan presidential election of 1988 was the second presidential election of Sri Lanka. Nominations were accepted on 10 November 1988, and the election was held on 19 December 1988. Electoral participation was 55.32%. Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa of the governing United National Party was elected, receiving 50.4% of all votes cast.


During the 1988 election, Sri Lanka was in chaos. In the north and east, soldiers of the Indian Peace Keeping Force battled Tamil Tiger rebels. In the south, government death squads engaged in deadly violence with equally brutal militants of the Sinhala-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. Effective campaigning by the democratic opposition was barely possible.

Both of the major party candidates promised to abrogate the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord negotiated by outgoing UNP president J. R. Jayewardene and ask Indian troops to leave the country.

Voting was not held in Tiger-controlled areas of the north and east, and violence marred election day in the south.


Aided by its control of the state-owned media, the UNP candidate, Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa, won a narrow but firm victory.

e • d Summary of the 1988 Sri Lankan presidential election
Candidate Party Votes  %
  Ranasinghe Premadasa United National Party 2,569,199 50.43%
  Sirimavo Bandaranaike Sri Lanka Freedom Party 2,289,860 44.95%
  Oswin Abeygunasekara Sri Lanka People's Party 235,719 4.63%
Valid Votes 5,094,778 100.00%
Rejected Votes 91,445
Total Polled 5,186,223
Registered Electors 9,375,742
Turnout 55.32%
Source: Department of Elections, Sri Lanka