Ramos-Horta Wins in Election in Timor Leste, With Possible 2nd Round

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta has confirmed his lead in Timor-Leste’s presidential election at the weekend with two-thirds of the votes counted, but with the possibility of a second-round election if no candidate wins a majority.

Asia’s youngest nation is holding its fifth presidential election since independence from Indonesia in 2002. Resistance figure Ramos-Horta led with 45.7% of the vote after 64% of the vote had been counted, according to data from the country’s election management body.

The closest candidate after Horta is incumbent president and former guerrilla fighter Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres, with 22.5%.

A more definitive picture of the outcome of the election is expected Monday, but if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the election will proceed to a second round on April 19 between the two candidates with the most votes.

Speaking in the capital Dili on Sunday, Ramos-Horta said he was confident of an early win.

“My election in the first round … will really cause a political earthquake in the national parliament, which will lead to the breakdown of the current alliance,” he said.

The 72-year-old, who previously served as president from 2007 to 2012, said last week that he felt compelled to run again after he considered the incumbent president’s actions to have violated the constitution.

In Timor Leste, the president is responsible for appointing the government and also has the power to veto ministers and dissolve parliament.

In 2018, incumbent president Guterres refused to take the oath of seven ministers citing a judicial investigation into their alleged abuses, a move that has sparked an ongoing political stalemate.

Nearly 20 years since independence after Indonesia’s brutal occupation, Timor Leste, a country of 1.3 million people that is dependent on oil and gas, has grappled with issues of political stability and development. [uh/ab]