East Timor president routed in polls; run-off on April 16
DILI EAST TIMOR is heading for a run-off in its presidential election, with the Nobel Prize-winning incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta out of the race, a polling official said on Sunday.
The preliminary results point to a second-round showdown between the opposition Fretilin party’s Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres and former guerrilla leader Taur Matan Ruak.
Ramos-Horta, who shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, was lagging in third place after more than 70 percent of votes were counted, election secretariat official Luiz Fernando Valls told AFP.
“The preliminary counting is finished,” he said.
“Guterres and Ruak will go through to the second round on April 16, based on this preliminary count.” None of the 12 candidates who contested Saturday’s election were able to garner more than 50 percent of the vote constitutionally required for an outright win.
Guterres was on around 28 percent; Ruak 25 percent; and Ramos on 18 percent, with about 73 percent of the total votes cast counted, Valls said.
Early results from East Timor’s presidential polls on Sunday showed the opposition Fretilin party’s Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres had surged ahead with incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta lagging in third.
A tally broadcast live by the country’s electoral commission on state-owned radio and television station RTTL, put Guterres ahead with 28 percent of the 411,353 votes counted so far — around 65 percent of the total votes cast.
Former guerrilla leader Taur Matan Ruak was in second place with 25 percent of the vote, while Nobel Prizewinning incumbent Ramos- Horta, who is seeking another five-year term, was in third place with 18 percent.
In the 2007 presidential elections Ramos-Horta had turned his fortunes around after lagging behind Guterres in the first round but winning through in a run-off with 69 percent of the vote.
Votes were being counted by hand, some in remote areas with poor communications, and results were not due until later in the week, according to election officials.
Ermenegildo Lopes, head of the Bloku Ploklamador whose pro-reform alliance has five places in the 65-seat parliament, said he doubted any candidate would land the knock-out blow needed to avoid a second round of voting.
“Our representatives in the districts indicate that the vote is split. With 12 candidates running it is hard for any one of them to get the more than 50 percent majority constitutionally required for an outright win,” he told AFP.
A second round of voting would be held in two weeks’ time if no clear winner emerges from Saturday’s vote.
Around the country, Timorese people had their eyes glued to their television sets, watching the changing figures.
Whether they were shopkeepers selling traditional handicrafts at Tias market, candidates’ spokesmen mingling with journalists, or people sitting at the lobby coffee shop of Hotel Timor, the talk was about who would emerge top.
The vote is the first in a series of key events in the poor and chronically unstable country still traumatised by Indonesia’s brutal 24-year occupation, which ended with a vote for independence in 1999.
In May, East Timor will celebrate 10 years of independence, which came after three years of UN administration.
Then, in June, voters will choose a new government in a general election.
At the end of the year the nation of 1.1 million people bids goodbye to UN forces stationed in the country since 1999.
Saturday’s voting was remarkably organised for the poor and chronically unstable country, and the peaceful polling stood in stark contrast to the deadly 2006 pre-election violence, taking East Timor to the brink of civil war.