In a test of East Timor's young democracy, voters went to the polls on Monday in a runoff election that will determine the country's next president.
After the first round of voting in March, the field in East Timor's presidential election has been narrowed to two candidates for Monday's runoff: Taur Matan Ruak and Francisco "Lu Olo" Gutteres.
Both are veterans from East Timor's war for independence from Indonesia that ended in 2002 after 24 years of fighting. Ruak is a former military chief, and Gutteres was once Ruak's deputy. In the first round of voting, Gutteres held a slight lead, polling 28 percent compared to Ruak's 26 percent.
The incumbent president, Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta, ran for reelection but did not advance past the first round of voting. He fought for independence during the Indonesian occupation while in exile.
In 1999 the population voted in a referendum for independence but Indonesia's military and militias continued to fight and commit acts of violence. With the help of a United Nations peace mission three years later, the country was able to gain independence.
East Timor is the youngest UN member and the nation of 1.1 million people is among the poorest in the world.
In May, the chronically unstable nation celebrates 10 years of independence, and a general election to pick a new government is scheduled for July 7. The last UN troops are to withdraw by the end of 2012 if Monday's presidential elections and July's general election are conducted peacefully.
Results from Monday's poll are expected Tuesday.
mz/mr (AFP, dpa)