Ti­mor Leste votes in pres­i­den­tial elec­tion

New Straits Times - - World -

DILI: Ti­mor Leste voted for a new pres­i­dent yes­ter­day, with a for­mer guerilla fighter tipped for vic­tory af­ter win­ning the back­ing of the two big­gest par­ties, in a new sign of sta­bil­ity for Asia’s youngest na­tion.

The vote comes at a chal­leng­ing time for the tiny na­tion with oil re­serves run­ning dry and its lead­ers strug­gling to reach agree­ment with Aus­tralia in a row over lu­cra­tive en­ergy fields.

It is the first pres­i­den­tial elec­tion since the de­par­ture of United Na­tions peace­keep­ers in 2012 but, de­spite fears of vi­o­lence, there has been only spo­radic and lowlevel un­rest in the run-up to the vote.

Fran­cisco Guter­res, known by his nom de guerre “Lu-Olo”, is favourite to win the pres­i­dency which is largely cer­e­mo­nial but can have a key role in keep­ing the peace be­tween the coun­try’s feud­ing politi­cians.

He is leader of the sec­ond­biggest party, Fretilin, and also re­ceived the back­ing of in­de­pen­dence hero Xanana Gus­mao and his CNRT party, the coun­try’s largest.

An­a­lysts say the uni­fied can­di­dacy will boost sta­bil­ity in a na­tion that has been re­peat­edly rocked by bouts of vi­o­lence since gain­ing in­de­pen­dence in 2002 fol­low­ing a bru­tal 24-year In­done­sian oc­cu­pa­tion.

“That is good from the point of view of sta­bil­ity, be­cause com­pet­i­tive pol­i­tics can raise ten­sions,” Damien Kings­bury, a Ti­mor Leste ex­pert from Aus­tralia’s Deakin Univer­sity, said.

Kings­bury said it sug­gested that the coun­try would con­tinue to be led by a unity gov­ern­ment fol­low­ing par­lia­men­tary elec­tions later in the year.

But he added that hav­ing no vi­able op­po­si­tion could raise con­cerns about the gov­ern­ment’s ac­count­abil­ity. AFP

Fran­cisco Guter­res

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