Preliminary results in East Timor are pointing towards a new president. Taur Matan Ruak, a former freedom fighter turned defense chief, easily leads runoff rival Francisco Gutteres with over half the votes counted.
Former guerilla fighter and defense chief Taur Matan Ruak looks comfortably on course to win East Timor's presidential runoff election, according to preliminary results released Tuesday.
With 60 percent of the votes counted, Ruak had 61.23 percent of the vote, with the remaining 38.77 percent of the electorate supporting his runoff opponent Francisco Gutteres. Such a margin with so many votes counted means it's statistically improbable for the final outcome to change.
The final results will also be subject to examination by a court of appeal before they are officially confirmed.
East Timor's incumbent president, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta, came in third in the first round of voting, and therefore did not compete in the runoff.
Ramos-Horta, Ruak and Gutteres were all independence fighters in East Timor alongside Xanana Gusmao, the country's first president and current prime minister.
The presidential role is largely ceremonial, but has enjoyed a high public profile during Ramos-Horta's tenure.
Both Gutteres, a former speaker of parliament, and Ruak have promised to respect the outcome of the vote, and have urged their supporters to do the same.
East Timor was a Portuguese colony for 400 years before Indonesia sent in troops in 1975. The country gained independence at a UN-sponsored referendum in 1999. Roughly 620,000 people in East Timor are eligible to vote.
msh/slk (AFP, dpa)