Mahinda Rajapaksa election defeat
Mahinda Rajapaksa concedes defeat in Sri Lanka parliamentary electionDinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

Former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa has conceded defeat in the parliamentary polls held on Monday, 17 August but said he would continue to work in the opposition.

In the polling, widely seen as a referendum on the 69-year-old nationalist's political career, Rajapaksa's bloc United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won in eight out of 22 districts, while the ruling United National Party (UNP) picked up 11 districts. Local Tamil parties emerged victorious in the rest of the districts.

"My dream of becoming prime minister has faded away. I am conceding. We have lost a good fight. We have won eight districts and the UNP has 11. This means we have lost. It was a difficult fight," Rajapaksa told the AFP.

However, while speaking to Reuters shortly after his initial comments he was less definite about the results. A tweet from his official account also read: "Mahinda Rajapaksa hasn't yet received official final results of #GenElecSL to accept victory or concede defeat."

There was apprehension that Rajapaksa's election could trigger an indefinite power struggle between him and President Maithripala Sirisena, a former cabinet member under Rajapaksa. Monitors appointed by the Sri Lankan election commission have said the polling was largely free and fair, adding that it was one of the most peaceful elections in recent Sri Lankan history.

Meanwhile, Sirisena has also responded to the polling day saying: "I do believe that conducting this election in a peaceful environment was a result of the good governance established through changes and transformations effected since taking up appointment as the President of this country six months ago." In a veiled dig at the former president, Sirisena said the elections were largely peaceful because the head of the state did not interfere in the democratic process.