Jose Ramos-Horta appears to be on his way to his second tenure as president of East Timor after Tuesday’s runoff election.
Preliminary results released Wednesday by the country’s election commission show that, with more than 60% of all votes counted, the 72-year-old Ramos had a commanding lead, with just over 60% of the vote, while incumbent President Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres had just over 37% of the vote.
Ramos-Horta won more than 46% of the vote in last month’s first round of voting, failing to get more than the 50% needed to avoid the runoff. President Guterres only won 22.1% of the vote.
The runoff was a contest between two of East Timor’s prominent independence figures. Guterres led guerrilla forces during Indonesia’s brutal 25-year occupation, while Ramos-Horta’s efforts to reach a peace deal with Indonesia earned him a share of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with compatriot Carlos Belo, the Catholic bishop who openly spoke out about atrocities committed by Indonesian forces.
East Timor has been mired in years of political and economic instability since gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002. The latest crisis stems from Guterres’s refusal to swear in several Cabinet ministers from the National Congress of the Reconstruction of Timor Leste party, better known by its acronym CNRT.
Ramos-Horta came out of retirement to challenge Guterres, whom he accused of violating East Timor’s constitution. Former president Xanana Gusmao, the head of the CNRT, endorsed Ramos-Horta.
If current results hold, Ramos-Horta -- who first served as president from 2007 to 2012 --- will be sworn in on May 20, the 20th anniversary of East Timor’s independence.