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East Timor president out of poll race
Incumbent Jose Ramos Horta lags in third place as election heads for a runoff.
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2012 14:39
As votes were still being tallied in outlying districts, final provisional results are to be announced on Monday [AFP]

East Timor is heading for a runoff in its presidential election, with the incumbent Jose Ramos Horta out of the race.

Preliminary results point to a second-round showdown in mid-April between the opposition Fretilin party's Francisco "Lu Olo" Guterres and Jose Maria de Vasconcelos, a former army chief and guerrilla leader.

Ramos Horta was lagging in third place after more than 70 per cent of votes were counted, election secretariat official Luiz Fernando Valls told AFP news agency on Sunday..

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate had already indicated he is ready to step down after a poor showing in weekend elections.

Leading Saturday's first-round ballot with 27.28 per cent of the vote was Francisco Guterres. Also known as Lu Olo, he was a member of a guerrilla group before independence.

In second place with 24.17 per cent was Maria de Vasconcelos, also known as Taur Matan Ruak.

Ramos Horta, a former prime minister who survived an assassination attempt in 2008, was third in the field of 12 with
19.43 per cent.

Ramos said he was not disappointed and that both men are capable of ensuring peace and stability for the tiny nation, which was his only real concern.

Economy tops agenda

The first round passed off peacefully and streets were largely deserted on Sunday, with many businesses closed and
voters following the results indoors on radio and television.

As votes were still being counted in outlying districts, final provisional results are to be announced on Monday and
official results within a week.

The World Bank says 41 per cent of East Timor's 1.2 million people live on less than $0.88 per day [Reuters]

"The counting process is under way and whatever the outcome, it will be a victory for East Timor," de Vasconcelos, who gave up his military job to run, told a news conference.

"I congratulate the people of East Timor for holding an extremely civil election."

The Fretilin party won the most votes in a 2007 parliamentary election hit by bouts of violence.

East Timor, the eastern half of an island at the eastern end of the vast Indonesian archipelago, became independent after
nearly two decades under Indonesian control. Before that it had been a Portuguese colony.

The president plays little role in policy but is vital in underpinning stability in East Timor, which has vast offshore
gas reserves but is having difficulty unlocking its wealth.

The reserves are the object of a dispute with Australia's Woodside Petroleum, which heads a consortium of firms
developing the Greater Sunrise project gas field. It wants to use a floating LNG plant, while East Timor wants the plant built on shore to create more jobs.

Economic issues top the agenda for many voters as 41 per cent of East Timor's 1.2 million people live on less than $0.88 per day, according to a World Bank report.

Source:
Agencies
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