Ramos-Horta triumphs Timor-Leste presidential election

José Ramos-Horta. PHOTO: José Ramos-Horta official website

Nobel prize winner José Ramos-Horta has scored a landslide victory in the Timor-Leste presidential election, according to preliminary results published by the country’s election secretariat.

The 72-year-old secured 397,145 votes, or 62.09% of the total vote, against incumbent Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres’ 242,440 (37.91%), the secretariat’s website showed after all ballots were counted.

The victory gives Ramos-Horta his second term in office. He served as timor-Leste’s president from 2007 to 2012.

Large election turnout

Nearly 860,000 people in the country of 1.3 million were eligible to vote, and more than 75% of voters turned up to cast their ballots in the second round.

“The elections were competitive, and the campaign was largely peaceful,” said EU observer Domenec Ruiz Devesa on Wednesday, adding the counting process had been assessed “positively”.

This week’s vote was a rematch of the 2007 presidential poll that also saw Ramos-Horta win handily, with 69% of the vote.

Ramos-Horta said he came out of retirement to run once more, because he believed the outgoing president had violated the constitution.

Restoring relations

Addressing concerns over political instability in the country, Ramos-Horta said he would work to heal divisions in Timor-Leste.

“I will do what I have always done throughout my life… I will always pursue dialogue, patiently, relentlessly, to find common ground to find solutions to the challenges this country faces,” he said.

Responding to economic pressures

The president-elect, said he would work with the government to respond to global economic pressures, including the impact on supply chains from the war in Ukraine and COVID-19 lockdowns in China.

“Of course, we start feeling it here in Timor Leste. Oil prices went up, rice went up, that is a reality of what has happened in the world… It requires wise leadership.”

The new president faces the daunting task of lifting the country out of poverty. Timor-Leste is still reeling from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the World Bank has said that 42 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Ramos-Horta will be inaugurated on 20 May, the 20th anniversary of Timor-Leste’s independence from Indonesia, which occupied the former Portuguese colony for 24 years.