East Timorese Vote in Presidential Runoff

Posted April 16th, 2012 at 4:05 am (UTC-5)
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East Timor residents voted in a presidential runoff Monday, choosing between two former leaders of the nation's independence war.

The winner will replace outgoing president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, who ran third in the first round of presidential balloting. The presidency is largely ceremonial, but the incumbent holds significant moral influence.

The first-round vote leader was Francisco Guterres, who uses the nom de guerre “Lu Olo.” He predicted victory and promised to work to bring prosperity to Asia's newest and poorest country.

“I believe I will win and what I promise during the campaign period I will carry out after being elected, and I will be president for all the people of East Timor to ensure peace and prosperity, development and cooperation with other state agencies.''

Challenging him is Taur Matan Ruak, who has made a call for universal military service a centerpiece of his campaign. While voting Monday, he stressed the need for all citizens to respect the results, which are expected later this week.

“I hope this election result will be better accepted by the people of East Timor, including both candidates, because it has become a choice of the people.''

Monday's voting was generally free of the violence that has plagued other key events in the country's brief experience of democracy.

Next month, East Timor will mark the 10th anniversary of its independence following decades of guerrilla war against Indonesia.

If parliamentary elections in July are successful, a force of 400 U.N. peacekeepers is likely to leave before the end of the year.