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Former guerrilla wins East Timor presidency

25 april 2012, 10:18
East Timorese election commission shows ballot paper. ©REUTERS/Lirio Da Fonseca
East Timorese election commission shows ballot paper. ©REUTERS/Lirio Da Fonseca
Former guerrilla fighter Taur Matan Ruak has officially won East Timor's presidential election, according to a court statement that confirmed preliminary results announced last week, AFP reports.

The Supreme Court of Appeals said in a statement dated Monday that Ruak had won 61.2 percent of the vote, beating rival Francisco Guterres "Lu Olo" in the April 16 run-off ballot.

Ruak, a hero of the 24-year war against Indonesian occupation and a former army chief, will replace Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta, who trailed in third place in the first round of voting on March 17.

"The court validates the second ballot for the election of the President of the Republic," the statement said. "The candidate elected President of the Republic is Taur Matan Ruak".

Ruak, 55, will lead an impoverished and oil-dependent country which next month celebrates a decade of formal independence, and later this year bids goodbye to UN peacekeepers stationed on the half-island nation since 1999.

On July 7, voters will also choose a new government in a general election.

Late last year Ruak, whose name means "piercing eyes" in the local Tetum language, resigned as defence chief to run for president. He had vowed to introduce mandatory military service if elected.

Ruak, whose real name is Jose Maria Vasconcelos, has been accused by the United Nations of involvement in illegal weapons transfers in 2006 when rioting and factional fighting left the nation on the brink of civil war.

However, no attempts have been made to prosecute him.

While the presidency is largely ceremonial, it has enjoyed a high profile under Ramos-Horta.

Among East Timor's many teething problems as a fledgling nation is its heavy reliance on energy reserves, which account for around 90 percent of state revenues.

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