03/21/2022, 12.18
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Dili: Jose Ramos-Horta on his way to the presidency

The 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner is in the lead with over 45% of the vote. If no candidate wins a majority, the run-off will be held on 19 April. Ramos-Horta, who was president from 2007 to 2012, fought for the country's independence from Portuguese and Indonesian rule.

Dili (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Jose Ramos-Horta, winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, is ahead in yesterday's presidential election, which will be a runoff if none of the candidates wins a majority. With 73% of the votes counted, Ramos-Horta is in the lead with 45.9% of the vote. In second place is current president Fransisco "Lu Olo" Guterres, with 22.7%. None of the other 14 challengers reached the 10% threshold. 

The possible second round would be held on 19 April, but yesterday Ramos-Horta said he was confident of an early victory: "My election in the first round will cause a political earthquake in Parliament by disintegrating the current alliances," he said.

The 72-year-old had already ruled the country from 2007 to 2012, surviving an assassination attempt in 2008. Born in 1949, when East Timor was still a Portuguese colony, he grew up in a Catholic mission and as a young man took part in the struggle for independence, before being sent into exile in Mozambique (another Portuguese colony) from 1970 to 1971.

Back home, he sided with the pro-independence movement Fretilin (Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor), from which he later distanced himself in the 1980s. When the Democratic Republic of East Timor was proclaimed in 1975, he became foreign minister, but after only nine days Indonesia invaded the country, triggering a conflict that only ended in the late 1990s with the definitive independence of the territory, which is now the youngest nation in Asia. 

Forced back into exile in 1975, Ramos-Horta, who has a law degree, has for years monitored human rights violations by the Indonesian Armed Forces, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 together with the Bishop of Timor, Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo. In 2012, he ran for the presidency again, coming third in the first round of the elections, which were won by military commander Taur Matan Ruak.

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