Ramos-Horta leads in Timor-Leste election with two thirds of the vote counted

Jose Ramos Horta shows his inked finger after casting his vote on March 19, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

DILI, TIMOR -LESTE (REUTERS) - Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta secured a commanding lead in Timor-Leste's presidential poll at the weekend with two-thirds of the vote counted, but with the possibility of a second round if no candidate secures a majority.

Asia's youngest nation held its fifth presidential election since independence from Indonesia in 2002, with resistance figure Ramos-Horta leading with 45.7 per cent after 64 per cent of the votes had been counted, data from the country's election administration body showed.

The next closest candidate was incumbent president and former guerrilla fighter Fransisco "Lu Olo" Guterres, with 22.5 per cent.

A more definitive picture of the results is expected later on Monday (March 21), but if no candidate secures more than 50 pr cent of votes, the poll will proceed to a runoff on April 19 between the top two contenders.

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

"My election in the first round... will in fact cause a political earthquake in the national Parliament, that will cause a disintegration of current alliances," 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 deemed actions by the incumbent president had 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 swear in seven ministers on the grounds of judicial inquiries into their alleged misconduct, a move that has sparked an ongoing political stalemate.

Nearing twenty years since independence after a brutal occupation by Indonesia, Timor-Leste , an oil and gas dependent nation of 1.3 million, has struggled with political stability and development.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.