COLOMBO (Reuters) - Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Tuesday he was unlikely to lead Sri Lanka's next government as initial results from the general election gave a slight edge to the coalition government.
However, with only one of 22 districts having declared, the shape of the next parliament remains unclear and Rajapaksa's comments to Reuters stopped short of an outright concession.
"I will support good policies and oppose bad things," the two-term president, who crushed a 26-year Tamil insurgency in 2009, said by telephone from his southern home of Hambantota.
The 69-year-old nationalist ruled out joining a unity government that President Maithripala Sirisena, the figurehead of a broad reform coalition that toppled him at a presidential vote in January, wants to form.
Sirisena succeeded Rajapaksa as leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party but has moved only belatedly to assert his control over the party and block his predecessor's path back to power.
Sirisena backed the formation of a minority government led by the United National Party (UNP) after January's election and called the early election in a bid to form a more broadly based administration joined by his own supporters in the SLFP.
Initial results indicated that the UNP was likely to make gains and emerge as the largest single party, but would need outside support to form a viable government to run the Indian Ocean island of 20 million people.
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Paul Tait)