DILI (Reuters) – The top two candidates in East Timor’s presidential poll on Tuesday appeared set for a second round next month, despite the latest vote count showing a commanding lead for Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta.
With all votes counted, Ramos-Horta had secured 46.58%, more than twice the share of his rival Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres, but still shy of the majority needed to win in one round.
The election body, which carries the latest count on its website, has yet to confirm the second round. But if no candidate secures more than 50% of votes, the poll will proceed to a runoff on April 19.
Speaking at the presidential palace on Tuesday, incumbent president Guterres said he would seek an alliance with all the parties that did not qualify for the second round.
“Let’s go to the second round because no candidate came out as a winner and no candidate came out as a loser, now we start again from zero,” he said.
Ramos-Horta said earlier he was confident of victory, and that his election would cause a “political earthquake in the national parliament”.
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.
Almost two decades after gaining independence from neighbouring Indonesia, East Timor held its fifth presidential election on Saturday – a race crowded with key resistance figures who remain prominent in the running of Asia’s youngest nation to this day.
In East Timor, the president is responsible for appointing the government and also has the power to dissolve parliament.
The country has a predominantly Catholic population of 1.3 million people and an oil and gas dependent economy, but has struggled with political stability and development.
(Reporting by Nelson Da Cruz in Dili and Kate Lamb in Jakarta; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)