Timor-Leste’s presidential election candidate Taur Matan Ruak delivered a speech to supporters on Wednesday that virtually amounts to a declaration of victory. Speaking in the public for the first time since the second round of the presidential polls on Monday, Ruak thanked his supporters and the individuals, organizations and political parties involved in the election. “My Victory Team! All and each one of you, thank you very much! ” he said to hundreds of supporters from a stage. In the background was a campaign post that reads, “in the past I fought with you for independence. Now I am with you again to develop this country.” Ruak, who had the support of the ruling party, had campaigned for presidency saying that he supports a safe and stable Timor- Leste and hopes to help develop the country.
The former army chief and guerrilla fighter Jose Maria de Vasconcelos has won East Timor’s presidential elections, an election official said on Tuesday, citing provisional results. Vasconcelos, known as Taur Matan Ruak, won about 61 percent of the 452,000 votes that have been counted so far, Tomas Cabral, an election commission official, was quoted as saying on local television and radio in the capital Dili. “The tally is still being updated but it indicates that Taur Matan Ruak has gotten the majority of votes,” said Cabral.
East Timor is electing a new president in a run-off vote between two former freedom fighters, ahead of a decade of independence next month. Opposition leader Francisco Guterres and former guerrilla leader Taur Matan Ruak are pitted against each other. The incumbent, President Jose Ramos-Horta, admitted defeat after trailing in third place in the first round of the election last month. Mr Ramos-Horta said he would hand over power to the winner on 19 May.
East Timor’s second presidential election as a free nation will see two ex-guerrillas compete in a run-off vote on Monday, after the Nobel Prize-winning incumbent was knocked out in the first round. Either Francisco Guterres “Lu Olo” or Taur Matan Ruak, both heroes of the nation’s 24-year war against Indonesian occupation, will replace Jose Ramos-Horta, who trailed in third place in a vote seen as a key test for the young democracy. While the presidency is largely ceremonial, it enjoyed a high profile under Ramos-Horta, and the election is the first in a series of landmark events for the half-island nation of 1.1 million people. In May, East Timor will celebrate 10 years of independence, which came after three years of UN administration. Then, in July, voters will choose a new government in a general election. At the end of the year the impoverished and chronically unstable nation bids goodbye to UN forces stationed in the country since 1999.
Step aside Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, there are equally (some would argue more) gripping electoral contests occurring on the other side of the world—in Southeast Asia. Myanmar’s by-elections on April 1 were groundbreaking. Timor-Leste’s ongoing presidential elections seem to have already thrust the country in a new direction. And in Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak may not have called for a vote, but election fever is in the air.
The second round run-off of Timor Leste’s presidential elections scheduled for mid-April will pit two heavyweights of the decade-old country’s past resistance struggle and signals a shift towards a new era of nationalist politics. Of the dozen candidates who contested the first round contest on March 17, Fretilin party president Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres and former defense chief Jose Maria Vasconcelos, more commonly known by his nom de guerre Taur Matan Ruak, respectively won 28% and 25% of the vote and are expected to fight a tight second round race. The electoral demise of incumbent President Jose Ramos Horta, placed third with 17%, has signaled a decisive shift away from the internationalist stance that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate had come to represent in Timorese national politics.
José Ramos-Horta, the president of Timor-Leste who helped steer the country into independence after campaigning tirelessly for nearly a quarter of a century, has conceded defeat after a poor showing in weekend elections. The first round of voting passed peacefully, raising the prospects of a withdrawal of the Australian-led mission of about 400 UN peacekeeping troops that was deployed to Timor-Leste in 2006 to quell chaotic unrest. Francisco Lu Olo Guterres, of the traditionally strong leftist Fretilin party, was leading with 28% of the vote, followed by the former military chief Taur Matan Ruak with 25%. That means Ramos-Horta, with 18%, has no chance of advancing to a 21 April runoff. “Congratulations to them,” the Nobel peace laureate told reporters. “And also to the people who supported me throughout my mandate.”
More than 1,200 UN forces are ready to intervene in East Timor’s presidential election this weekend if there is an outbreak of major violence, according to the top UN official in the country. UN vehicle escorted by local and UN police force unload ballot boxes at a polling center in Dili, on March 16, in preparation for the presidential election. A decade after winning formal independence from Indonesia, East Timor will hold its second presidential election as a free state. East Timor, which gained formal independence from Indonesia a decade ago, will hold its second presidential poll as a free country Saturday with a line-up that includes the incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel laureate. Ameerah Haq, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for East Timor, told AFP that the campaign period had gone “remarkably well”. The peaceful run-up to the election stands in stark contrast to the rioting and factional fighting that erupted in 2006 ahead of elections the following year, which left at least 37 dead and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
Timorese voters will go to the polls twice this year to elect the nation’s president and parliament for the third time since achieving independence in 2001. The elections, scheduled respectively for March and June, promise to be the most significant to date for Timor Leste, also known as East Timor. The 2002 elections followed the flush of independence from Indonesian rule, while the 2007 polls were overshadowed by the previous year’s political and civil unrest that led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. This year’s elections will define the country’s direction over the next five years during which the United Nations Integrated Mission to Timor Leste and the Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) will both withdraw and national leaders will face critical development issues.
Concerns have been raised about possible intimidation of voters in a number of electoral districts in East Timor by members of the military loyal to their former chief and presidential hopeful Taur Matan Ruak. East Timorese will vote on March 17 in what will be just the second free presidential election in the tiny country since it gained independence a decade ago. Despite leading candidates, including incumbent president Jose Ramos-Horta, having downplayed the risk of a repeat of the violence which marred elections in 2007, observers on the ground have voiced fears about the potential for unrest. ‘I am completely reassured about security,’ Dr Ramos-Horta said told AAP. ‘Our police and the United Nations police are alert all over the country. They have tremendous experience over the years in assessing the situation, in pre-empting any security threats so I am very confident it will be okay.’