Did You Know
Did You Know
Sri Lanka's long-time leader Mahinda Rajapaksa has admitted defeat in the presidential election, his office says.
President Rajapaksa has dominated politics for a decade, but faced an unexpected challenge from his health minister Maithripala Sirisena.
The statement said Mr Rajapaksa would "ensure a smooth transition of power".
Official results are not due until later on Friday, but early results indicated that Mr Sirisena was on course to win the 50% needed.
He has not yet commented.
Mr Rajapaksa, who was seeking a third term in office, is credited by many with ending the civil war in 2009, when troops routed the Tamil Tigers separatist rebels after more than two decades of fighting.
Maithripala Sirisena in Polonnaruwa (8 Jan 2014)
Maithripala Sirisena was a surprise opponent when he defected to run against his former friend
But rights groups accused both sides in the war of atrocities, allegations the government denies.
Mr Rajakpaksa's press officer said the president "concedes defeat and will ensure a smooth transition of power bowing to the wishes of the people".
He added that Mr Rajapaksa had already left his official residence and the new leader would be sworn in later on Friday.
The BBC's Azzam Ameen in the capital, Colombo, said firecrackers could be heard across the city after Mr Rajapaksa's declaration.
Both Mr Rajapaksa and Mr Sirisena are Sinhalese, the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka.
They were allies until November, when Mr Sirisena announced his surprise candidacy.
The former health minister had been tipped to gather most of the votes from the minority groups, with whom Mr Rajapaksa is deeply unpopular.
But he also needed a substantial number of votes from the Sinhalese, who have generally backed the long-time president in huge numbers.
High Tamil turnout
Ethnic Tamils vote in Colombo (8 Jan 2015)
There was a strong turnout in the elections and no reports of major disruptions to voting
Turnout in many areas was above 70%, roughly in line with previous elections, with no reports of major incidents disrupting the voting process.
In Jaffna and Trincomalee, two of the main Tamil strongholds expected to vote against Mr Rajapaksa, turnout was higher than previous national elections.
The build-up to Sri Lankan elections is usually blighted by dozens of deaths, but this year just one election-related death was reported.
Mr Rajapaksa was last elected in 2010 when he defeated his former army chief Sarath Fonseka, who was later jailed on charges of implicating the government in war crimes.