East Timor elects former fighter Taur Matan Ruak president
Former East Timor independence fighter Jose Maria de Vasconcelos, also known as Taur Matan Ruak, has been elected president, a post vital to promoting stability in Asia's newest and one of its poorest countries.
Provisional results show that Mr Ruak won about 61 per cent of the vote with about 98 per cent of ballots counted, government election commission official Tomas Cabral told reporters.
Mr Ruak defeated another former independence fighter, Francisco Guterres 'Lu Olo', from the opposition Fretilin party who won 38.8 per cent of the vote in Monday's run-off, Mr Cabral said.
"The tally is still being updated but it indicates that Taur Matan Ruak has gotten the majority of votes," Mr Cabral said.
The president plays little role in policy making but is vital to promoting stability in the country that gained independence from Indonesia in 2002 after years of bloody struggle, and was later rocked by factional unrest.
"He can become a president who will unify all political forces," his spokesman, Fidelis Magalhaes, told a news conference.
A former Portuguese colony, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and later annexed. For decades Indonesia tried in vain to crush opposition to its rule.
Mr Ruak's nickname means two sharp eyes in a dialect of the country's Tetum language. He was the last commander of East Timor's National Liberation Army, Falintil, before independence.
Peaceful transition?Incumbent president Jose Ramos-Horta was eliminated in the first round last month. Dr Ramos-Horta won the Nobel peace prize for his role in the country's independence campaign and survived an assassination attempt in 2008.
He lost the support of prime minister Xanana Gusmao and his CNRT party which had backed him when he first stood for president in 2007. Mr Gusmao instead backed Mr Ruak.
It is hoped the peaceful election will set the scene for a concerted effort to tackle high unemployment, poverty and a lack of infrastructure.
"The real question is whether Timor-Leste will be able to emerge fully from a past filled with violence and oppression, and whether it will be able to enjoy a peaceful transition of power," Dr Ramos-Horta said in a commentary in the New York Times.
"I view the fact that our elections are competitive with a sense of contentment. They are a sign that the country is maturing," he said.
About 73 percent of East Timorese voted on Monday. The High Court will ratify the result after an independent election commission checks the final result. Parliamentary elections are due on July 7.