Timor-Leste votes in presidential runoff

Bangkok, Apr 19 (EFE).- The people of Timor-Leste started coming in to vote Tuesday in the presidential runoff, in which veteran politician and Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta squares off against incumbent president Francisco “Lu-OLO” Guterres.

This runoff comes a month after the first round of the elections, when Ramos-Horta finished in first place with 46 percent of the vote, double of that secured by his immediate rival Guterres, but it fell short of an absolute majority required to become president.

Ramos-Horta, who has returned to contest for the presidency at the age of 77, is supported by the popular and influential former guerrilla Xanana Gusmao, who served as the country’s first president, after it gained independence from Indonesia 20 years ago.

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

Ramos-Horta, 77, who survived an assassination attempt in 2008, served as foreign minister from 2002 to 2006, head of government from 2006 to 2007 and president from 2007 to 2012.

The office of president has fewer prerogatives than that of the prime minister in East Timor, although he elects the head of government and can veto laws, and these elections are seen primarily as a power struggle between the country’s major parties.

The president has a five year term, and although most powers wielded by the prime minister, the former can veto laws and appoint the head of government.

East Timor, which will celebrate 20 years of independence from Indonesia on May 20, faces high levels of poverty and a worrying youth unemployment rate, coupled with the negative economic effects of the pandemic. EFE


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