"What the Tigers have done is to ensure Mr. Wickremesinghe's defeat," said political analyst and former air force chief Harry Gunatillake. "They may have calculated that he was the more formidable man to deal with."
Wickremesinghe entered a ceasefire with the LTTE in 2002 and lost his job as prime minister. President Chandrika Kumaratunga sacked him, charging he had jeopardised national security by inking the truce.
Instead of delivering the minority Tamil votes to Wickremesinghe, the Tigers staged a virtual boycott and let in the hardline nationalist candidate Mahinda Rajapakse, the incumbent prime minister.
Rajapakse's tough approach to peace appears to better suit the Tigers' own reluctance to return to talks.
Gunatillake noted the Tigers have struggled to control a damaging split and want more time to rally their ranks.
Asked if he felt let down by the Tigers, Wickremesinghe said: "I had no deal with them to feel let down."
Wickremesinghe, who had earned a reputation as a keen strategist and a shrewd negotiator, appeared to have been led up the garden path by the Tigers and then ditched.
"I was never expecting to win with the votes in Jaffna," Wickremesinghe told AFP as it became clear that the Tamils were staying at home. "If you can't win in the (Sinhalese majority) south, you can't win the country," he said.
Diplomats involved in Sri Lanka's Norwegian-backed peace process had banked on Wickremesinghe winning the presidency to inject new dynamism into a moribund peace initiative.
However, his defeat was seen putting the clock back on the peace process.
The new president has vowed he will not turn the country into a federal state and is against power sharing with minority Tamils.
"What was important about Wickremesinghe's plan was power sharing," said Sunanda Deshapriya, director at the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) think tank. "All that would be in question now."
The Tiger move to keep away voters is exactly what Rajapakse's camp had wanted but could not achieve even through a supreme court petition.
Fearing that a high poll among Tamils could favour the former premier, the Rajapakse camp asked the court to stop Tamils voting in rebel-held areas, a call rejected by the judiciary earlier this month.
What the court could not do, the Tigers did effectively. They did not call for a formal boycott, but private poll monitors said the guerrillas used strong-arm tactics to enforce their diktat.
Reviving peace efforts is also essential for Sri Lanka to free up billions of dollars in aid tied to progress in the peace process.
The long break in the talks has added to the tension between troops and Tamil Tigers. Scandinavian monitors have reported that more than 190 people have been killed in clashes this year alone despite the ceasefire.
The new president has vowed he will usher in an "honourable peace", but diplomats said it was difficult to see him cutting any deals with the Tigers as long as he depended on ultra nationalists for his own survival. - AFP
-Amal Jayasinghe: email@example.com