By Thomas Ora
Incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta has conceded defeat in the first round of presidential elections, and congratulated his two main rivals who will go head to head in a runoff vote next month.
Following the vote at the weekend Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva of Dili praised candidates and voters, saying the people demonstrated a growing maturity in upholding democratic principles.
“Things ran peacefully during the campaign and during the election itself,” Bishop da Silva said yesterday, following voting on Saturday, which saw 12 candidates vying to become the country’s next leader.
The bishop said despite being a small and poor country, Timor Leste has shown the world that it has fully embraced democracy. Previous elections had been marred by violence.
The prelate also lauded the candidates, who encouraged the people to vote honestly, freely and secretly. “It was important because the Church had prayed for an election free of any conflicts,” he said.
Early results showed opposition leader Francisco Guterres ahead with 28 percent of the vote and former guerrilla leader Taur Matan Ruak second with 25 percent.
During the campaign, Ramos Horta had told his supporters to keep the peace. He also said that if he failed to win, he would always offer his help to the people’s choice.
Official announcement of the results will be made later this week. The runoff is expected to take place on April 21.