Voting begins in East Timor presidential run-off

Agence France-Presse
Either of 2 candidates is set to replace Nobel Prize-winning Jose Ramos-Horta who trailed in 3rd place in the first round last March 17

DILI, East Timor – Voting began Monday, April 16, in East Timor’s presidential run-off election, as the young democracy prepares to celebrate its first decade of independence and bid goodbye to UN forces.

Polls opened at 7:00 am Monday, an AFP correspondent saw, in a contest that pits Francisco Guterres “Lu Olo” against Taur Matan Ruak, both heroes of the 24-year war against Indonesian occupation.

Either of the two candidates is set to replace the Nobel Prize-winning incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta who trailed in third place in the first round on March 17 that failed to produce a decisive winner.

While the presidency is largely ceremonial, it enjoyed a high profile under Ramos-Horta, and the elections are the first in a series of landmark events this year 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. On July 7, voters will choose a new government in a general election.

Ameerah Haq, the UN Secretary General’s special representative for East Timor, reportedly said last week that UN peacekeepers, stationed since 1999, would pull out as planned by year’s end if both elections are peaceful.

The first round of voting was free of violence but ahead of the run-off at least two homes of political supporters or campaign organisers have been torched and a number of campaign vehicles attacked.

The voting age for Monday’s polls is 17, and more than 620,000 are eligible to vote at 850 polling stations nationwide. Polls will remain open until 3:00 pm (0600 GMT).

By law, provisional results must be announced 48 hours after polls close. – Agence France-Presse