AP

East Timor chooses president in runoff amid political feud

Apr 19, 2022, 12:23 AM | Updated: 1:07 am

DILI, East Timor (AP) — Voters in East Timor chose a president in a runoff Tuesday between former independence fighters who’ve blamed each other for years of political paralysis.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta had a commanding lead in the election’s first round but failed to exceed 50% of the votes and avoid the runoff. Ramos-Horta received 46.6%, incumbent President Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres won 22.1% and 14 other candidates split the rest of the votes in the March 19 election.

Ramos-Horta, 72, and Guterres, 67, were resistance figures during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor. More than 76% of the votes last month went to resistance-era figures, showing how much they dominate politics after two decades despite younger voices emerging.

Polls closed at 3 p.m. and vote-counting began at 1,200 polling centers across the tiny country. Preliminary results may not be known until Wednesday.

The winner of the runoff takes office on May 20, the 20th anniversary of the restoration of East Timor’s independence.

“I call on people to accept whatever the results of this election wisely,” Guterres told reporters while voting in Dili, the capital.

Ramos-Horta, East Timor’s president from 2007 to 2012, and Guterres have blamed each other for years of political paralysis.

In 2018, Guterres refused to swear in nine Cabinet nominees from the National Congress of the Reconstruction of East Timor, known as CNRT, a party led by former prime minister and independence leader Xanana Gusmao, who backed Ramos-Horta’s run for president.

Guterres is from the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, known by its local acronym Fretilin, which had led resistance to Indonesian rule.

Fretilin says Ramos-Horta is unfit for president, accusing him of causing a crisis as prime minister in 2006, when dozens were killed as political rivalries turned into open conflict on the streets of Dili.

The latest impasse led to the resignation of Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak in February 2020. But he agreed to stay until a new government is formed and to oversee the response to the coronavirus pandemic. His government has operated without an annual budget and has relied on monthly injections from its sovereign fund savings, called the Petroleum Fund.

During his campaign, Ramos-Horta declared he would call an early parliamentary election if a new majority — based centrally on the CNRT — couldn’t be negotiated among the parties in the current parliament. Many are concerned that calling an election early will inflame rather than calm inter-party tensions.

Ramos-Horta’s commanding lead in the first round may yet weaken the current ruling alliance –Fretilin, People’s Liberation Party or PLP, and Khunto — in backing Guterres. Ruak’s PLP party and the rural-based Khunto party, have publicly committed to continuing their alliance with Fretilin until the 2023 parliamentary elections are due.

Ramos-Horta, after casting his vote in Dili, said people are too tired of the political feud, which he said has led to ignoring social and economic problems as well as soaring food prices. “People in East Timor want a new leader to solve the economic problems in this country,” he said.

He pledged to reduce poverty, providing health services for mothers and children and create more jobs if he is elected, and vowed to build communication with the governing parties to restore the constitutional mandate and to prevent a more severe economic downturn.

He also said that he will push for East Timor to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the next two years. “This is a very important matter for us and I’ll maintain diplomatic contacts with ASEAN leaders to make it happen,” he told reporters.

The former Portuguese colony was occupied by Indonesia for a quarter century and gained independence after a U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1999. Indonesia’s military responded with scorched-earth attacks that devastated the East Timorese half of the island of Timor.

The transition to a democracy has been rocky, with leaders battling massive poverty, unemployment and corruption. Its economy is reliant on dwindling offshore oil revenues.

Turnout in the March 19 election was 77.26%, or 6% higher than in 2017, the election commission said. Four women were among 16 candidates, the highest number of women taking part in the fifth election since independence.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

American Airlines put an unspecified number of employees on leave for their involvement in an incid...

Associated Press

American Airlines CEO calls removal of Black passengers from Phoenix flight ‘unacceptable’

American Airlines put an unspecified number of employees on leave for their involvement in an incident in which several Black passengers were removed from a flight in Phoenix.

11 hours ago

FILE - Crystal Baziel holds the Pan-African flag Monday, June 19, 2023, during Reedy Chapel A.M.E C...

Associated Press

The beginner’s guide to celebrating Juneteenth

For more than one-and-a-half centuries, the Juneteenth holiday has been sacred to many Black communities. It marks the day in 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out they had been freed — after the end of the Civil War, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Since it was designated a federal […]

2 days ago

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch ro...

Associated Press

Plane that did ‘Dutch roll’ on flight from Phoenix suffered structural damage, investigators say

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch roll” during a flight from Phoenix last month.

7 days ago

This photo provided by Randy Shannon shows Mooney Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the vi...

Associated Press

Dozens report illness after trips to waterfalls near Grand Canyon

Dozens of hikers say they fell ill during trips to a popular Arizona tourist destination that features towering blue-green waterfalls deep in a gorge neighboring Grand Canyon National Park.

7 days ago

Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

10 days ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

East Timor chooses president in runoff amid political feud