April 17, 2012 / 4:53 AM / 7 years ago

Ex-army chief wins East Timor presidency: election official

Dili (Reuters) - The former army chief and guerrilla fighter Jose Maria de Vasconcelos has won East Timor’s presidential elections, an election official said on Tuesday, citing provisional results.

Former army chief and guerrilla leader Jose Maria de Vasconcelos, also known as Taur Matan Ruak, speaks to reporters during a news conference in Dili March 18, 2012. REUTERS/Lirio Da Fonseca

Vasconcelos, known as Taur Matan Ruak, won about 61 percent of the 452,000 votes that have been counted so far, Tomas Cabral, an election commission official, was quoted as saying on local television and radio in the capital Dili.

“The tally is still being updated but it indicates that Taur Matan Ruak has gotten the majority of votes,” said Cabral.

The president plays little role in policy but is vital in underpinning stability in impoverished East Timor, which gained independence from Indonesia in 2002 after a bloody struggle.

Ruak defeated another former independence fighter Francisco Guterres “Lu Olo”, from the opposition Fretilin party, in the second round of the presidential poll that started on Monday.

Lu Olo got 38.8 percent of the votes, Cabral added.

Only three of 13 districts have yet to finalise counting.

Outgoing president Jose Ramos-Horta, who won the Nobel peace prize for his role in the country’s independence struggle from Indonesia, did not make it to the second round.

The final results will be recounted by an independent election commission before being made official by East Timor’s High Court.

About 73 percent of East Timorese turned out to vote in the second round of elections.

Economic issues have topped the agenda for many voters as 41 percent of East Timor’s 1.2 million people live on less than $0.88 per day, according to a World Bank Report. The country has vast offshore gas reserves it is struggling to unlock.

Reporting by Tito Belo; Writing by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Michael Perry

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