Ramos-Horta claims victory in East Timor’s presidential race

Bangkok, Apr 20 (EFE).- Veteran politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta Wednesday claimed victory in East Timor’s presidential runoff election, defeating incumbent President Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres.

Ramos-Horta told EFE in a telephone interview that he had secured “more than enough” votes to declare his electoral victory after receiving more than 62 percent of ballots compared to nearly 38 percent by Guterres.

About 70 percent of the more than 859,000 eligible voters exercised their franchise on Tuesday to elect the president between the two contestants who secured the highest number of ballots in the first round on Mar.19.

Ramos-Horta said his priority would be to end the political crisis in the country where the government has not been able to approve the budget in the last year due to the lack of parliamentary consensus.

“My intention is to find a solution (to the crisis) through dialog between members of parliament and the government and find a constructive solution to the political crisis,” Ramos-Horta said.

Ramos-Horta indicated that he would seek support from the international community, including the United Nations and the European Union, for the impoverished country’s development.

He described diplomatic ties with Indonesia, which occupied East Timor between 1975 and 1999, as “exemplary.”

Ramos-Horta said he would speed up Greater Sunrise natural oil and gas reserves project that has become more significant since the war in Ukraine triggered the global fuel crisis.

The potentially lucrative gas project could be a game-changer for the impoverished Southeast Asian island nation.

The gas field was long at the center of a maritime border dispute between East Timor and Australia before its resolution in 2018.

The veteran politician, who survived an assassination attempt in 2008, was supported in the election by influential former guerrilla Xanana Gusmao, who served as the first president after East Timor gained independence from Indonesia.

The support of Gusmao, the leader of the National Congress for the Timorese Reconstruction party, had decided the balance in the presidential elections in favor of Guterres in 2017.

Ramos-Horta served as foreign minister from 2002 to 2006, head of government from 2006 to 2007, and president from 2007 to 2012.

Apart from the two contestants, there were 14 other candidates in the fray, including four women and several budding student politicians for the pre-run off contest in March.

Ramos-Horta finished the first round with 46 percent of the votes, double than by his immediate rival Guterres.

But it fell short of an absolute majority required to become president.

The president has a five-year term.

The prime minister wields most of executive and legislative powers, but the president can veto laws and appoint the head of government.

East Timor faces high levels of poverty and a worrying youth unemployment rate, coupled with the economic effects of the pandemic. EFE


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