Former guerrilla Ruak elected East Timor president

Former guerrilla Taur Matan Ruak has won East Timor`s presidential run-off by a wide margin, preliminary results showed on Tuesdaay.

Updated: Apr 17, 2012, 18:13 PM IST

Dili: Former guerrilla Taur Matan Ruak has won East Timor`s presidential run-off by a wide margin, preliminary results showed on Tuesday, in a pivotal year for the nation almost a decade after independence.

Ruak, who had campaigned in military fatigues to highlight his role in the fight against Indonesian occupation, won 61.23 per cent of the vote, according to figures from the elections secretariat, which organised yesterday`s polls.

His challenger Francisco Guterres -- also a hero in the independence struggle and popularly known by his nom de guerre "Lu Olo" -- trailed far behind with 38.77 per cent, according to the count.

All the results have been counted but they must be examined by the court of appeals before they are officially announced.
"We are very much elevated by the result, by the current outcome," said Ruak`s spokesman Fidelis Magalhaes.

"We expect to see some changes, minor, probably one or two percentage points, but without a clear swing or fluctation of points" in the final count, he added.

If confirmed, Ruak, also a former defence chief, will become the leader of the impoverished and oil-dependent country, replacing Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta, who trailed in third place in the first round on March 17.

An international poll observer said the wide margin left no room for dispute over the results.

"If there was a close result there could have been some quarrelling, and while it`s not a landslide, this is a clear victory," said Rui Feijo, an election observer and researcher from Portugal`s Coimbra University.

The vote marked the first in a series of key events in the chronically unstable country, still traumatised by Indonesia`s brutal 24-year occupation which ended with a 1999 referendum for independence.

In May, East Timor will celebrate 10 years of independence, which came after three years of United Nations administration. On July 7, voters will choose a new government in a general election.
The UN has said peacekeepers stationed in East Timor since 1999 would pull out as planned by the end of 2012 if both elections were peaceful.
A spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday`s vote had taken place in a "peaceful and orderly manner".

While Ruak, 55, sought to burnish military credentials throughout the campaign, Lu Olo, 57, has shed his guerrilla image, earning a law degree and campaigning in a suit and tie. (AFP)