Independence leader and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta has won a second term as president of Timor-Leste.
In the second and final round of vote counting on April 20, Ramos-Horta won 62.09 percent of the vote while ex-guerrilla fighter President Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres trailed with 37.91 percent, according to data from the country's election body.
"I and my main supporters are not surprised by the result given the atmosphere of adherence to my campaign across the country," said Ramos-Horta, who was supported by the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) led by the country's most popular leader Xanana Gusmao.
It was a repeat performance for 72-year-old Ramos-Horta, who served as president of the half-island nation of 1.3 million people from 2007-12 after defeating Guterres in the second round.
Timorese people, he said, had voted "not only against Lu-Olo, who was backed by the Revolutionary Front for an Independent Timor-Leste (Fretilin), but also the current government and its coalition partners who failed to the country during various crises."
The victory underscores the significant role of Xanana, the country's first president (2002-07) and former prime minister (2007-15), said Professor Camilo Ximenes Almeida from the National University of Timor-Leste.
"Whoever the presidential candidate, he cannot win without the support of Xanana Gusmao as has been proven in the presidential elections of 2007, 2012 and 2017," he said.
Building good relations with all political parties, including those that support Guterres, will be the key to the future success of the Ramos-Horta government, Almeida felt, while adding that joint solutions were required to deal with problems such as poverty and unemployment that could undermine the unity and integrity of the nation.
There was apprehension among observers of a political fracture in Asia's youngest nation, which could lead Ramos-Horta to use his presidential powers to dissolve parliament and call for early parliamentary elections.
Ramos-Horta told reporters on April 19 that dissolving parliament will not be his first priority. "My priority is to restore the constitutional order of the country... This process does not necessarily mean the dissolution of the parliament, but it can be done through dialogue with each party," he said.
He further sought to assure that the priority will be to eradicate poverty "so that no one is hungry and malnourished, especially children and marginalized groups."
Timor-Leste is one of the poorest countries in the world with its estimated gross domestic product (GDP) per capita amounting to around US$1,560 in 2019, according to the World Bank. It also ranks 141 among 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index for 2020.
The latest presidential polls saw 75.17 percent of the 859,925 voters exercise their franchise at 1,200 polling stations across the country and abroad.
The next president will be sworn in on May 20, the 20th anniversary of Timor-Leste's restoration of independence in 2002.