Dili: Timor-Leste voted for a new president, with a former guerilla fighter tipped for victory after winning the backing of the two biggest parties, in a new sign of stability for Asia’s youngest nation.
The vote comes at a challenging time for the tiny half-island nation 15 years after independence, with oil reserves running dry and its leaders struggling to reach agreement with Australia over lucrative energy fields.
It is the first presidential election since the departure of United Nations peacekeepers in 2012. But despite fears of violence there has been only sporadic and low-level unrest in the run-up to the vote.
Francisco Guterres – known by his nom de guerre “Lu-Olo” – is favourite to win the presidency, which is largely ceremonial but can have a key role in keeping the peace between feuding politicians.
He is leader of the second-biggest party Fretilin and also won the backing of independence hero Xanana Gusmao and his CNRT party, the country’s largest.
“I am sure I will win, that there will be no second round,” Guterres, who is facing seven challengers for the presidency, said after casting his vote in the capital Dili.
He will have to secure over 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off in April.
Democratic Party politician Antonio da Conceicao is seen as his closest rival in the fourth presidential election since Timor-Leste gained independence in 2002 following a brutal 24-year Indonesian occupation. — AFP