Timor Leste votes in presidential election
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