East Timor elects president amid 20 years of independence

Bangkok, March 18 (EFE).- Veteran politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta aspires to win the presidential elections Saturday in East Timor, an impoverished Southeast Asian country with oil reserves that will celebrate 20 years since its independence in May.

Ramos-Horta, supported by popular and influential ex-guerrilla fighter Xanana Gusmao, faces current President Franciso “Lu-Olo” Guterres and 14 other candidates, including four women, with some 860,000 people called to vote in this small, mostly Catholic former Portuguese colony.

The elections are dominated by former guerrillas and independence heroes, including Ramos-Horta, Gusmao and Guterres, who played a significant role in resisting the brutal Indonesian occupation between 1975 and 1999.

However, the youth vote could end the hegemony of these influential figures and this year there is a record number of candidates and women, including Amanda Berta dos Santos, from the KHUNTO youth base party.

Other candidates are Mariano Sabino Lopes, of the Democratic Party; former student leader Ángela Freitas and former Interior Minister Rogerio Tiago Lobato, who spent more than three years in jail accused of arming civilians during the violent riots of 2006. EFE


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