A Second Chance
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A former independence fighter and Nobel Peace Prize laureate is set to win East Timor’s runoff presidential election this week, amid hopes that the new president will end the political impasse in Asia’s youngest democracy, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Jose Ramos-Horta secured nearly 62 percent of the vote against his rival, incumbent President Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres, who won about 38 percent. Although official results are not expected until next week, Guterres had promised to accept the outcome.
Ramos-Horta, who was president from 2007 to 2012, pledged to reduce poverty, reduce unemployment and improve health services. He also vowed to ameliorate communication between governing parties to restore the nation’s political stability.
He is expected to be sworn in on May 20, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of East Timor’s independence from Indonesia.
Since February 2020, East Timor has been engulfed in a political crisis after the government of Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak resigned. The prime minister later said he would stay in a caretaker position to oversee the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ruak’s government has been operating without an annual budget and has relied on monthly injections from its sovereign fund savings, called the Petroleum Fund.
The president is responsible for naming the government and dissolving parliament. Ramos-Horta said he would call for snap parliamentary polls if there was a failure to find a majority in the legislature.
However, many worry that an early election could inflame tensions in the country.
East Timor’s transition to democracy has been difficult, with officials grappling with severe poverty, unemployment and corruption as the country continues to deal with the fallout from its brutal independence fight. Its economy is based on declining offshore oil income.