Nobel laureate Ramos-Horta leads East Timor vote

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Nobel laureate Ramos-Horta leads East Timor vote

The East Timorese presidential candidate, who is also the former president Jose Ramos-Horta, shows his inked finger after casting his ballot at a polling station in Dili, East Timor on March 19, 2022. The Nobel laureate, Jose Ramos-Horta, is the clear frontrunner in the second and final round of East Timor's presidential election.

Ramos-Horta, who won 46.5 percent of the vote in the first round last month, is up against incumbent president Francisco Lu Olo Guterres, who garnered 22.1 percent, in a vote widely seen as a key to the nation's political stability.

In the capital Dili, voters queued up outside polling stations and dipped their fingers in purple ink after casting their ballots.

My hope is for the presidential candidate who is elected and the one who is not able to shake hands and advise each other to ensure stability and not create a crisis, said 27 year-old university student Lizia Bachita de Araujo.

I want the president to be able to work with the government to create more jobs," said Pascoela da Silve Pereira, a Dili resident and housewife. It is hard for people to provide for their families. Ramos-Horta said he was very confident he would win, but would accept any outcome after voting in the Dili suburb of Metiaut.

Lu Olo, a 67-year-old former guerrilla fighter, affirmed his commitment to accepting the results, saying: This is democracy and I always say win or lose it must be with dignity. Early on Tuesday, early voting is expected to be available. The next president will be sworn in on May 20, the twentieth anniversary of East Timor's independence from a brutal occupation by neighboring Indonesia.

The half-island nation of 1.3 million has struggled with political instability and the need to diversify its economy away from oil and gas revenues in recent years.

Political divisions have underscored this election, with Ramos-Horta, 72, signaling that he may use presidential powers to dissolve parliament and call for early parliamentary elections if he wins.

The current government is illegitimate, according to East Timor's first president and head of the National Congress of the Reconstruction of Timor Leste CNRT party. President Lu Olo is refusing to swear in more than half a dozen CNRT ministers following the 2018 elections due to investigations into their conduct, including alleged corruption.

Ramos-Horta, who is backed by Gusmao, said the nation can expect a political earthquake if he is elected.

Damien Kingsbury, an East Timor expert and emeritus professor at Australia's Deakin University, said the proposed dissolution of parliament would introduce a level of instability back into the Timorese political system.

It's difficult to see the parliament voluntarily dissolving itself, which would be the only other way to resolve that conflict of opinion as to legitimacy, he said.