Ruak elected E. Timor president: Preliminary results

A television shows the tally indicating a win for Taur Matan Ruak (R) at the district electoral commission.

DILI - Former guerrilla and defence chief Taur Matan Ruak has won East Timor's run-off presidential vote, preliminary results showed Tuesday.

Ruak won 275,441 votes, or 61.23 per cent, while Francisco Guterres, known as "Lu Olo", took 174,386, or 38.77 per cent, according to a count announced by the elections secretariat, which organised Monday's polls.

Ruak, 55, is set to take the presidency as the young democracy prepares to celebrate a decade of independence and bid farewell to UN forces.

The results from Monday's polls must be examined by the court of appeals before they are officially announced.

If the results are confirmed, he will become the leader of an impoverished and chronically unstable country, replacing the Nobel Prize-winning incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta, who trailed in third place in the first round on March 17.

Throughout his campaign Ruak reinforced his military image. Like Lu Olo, Ruak is a hero of the 24-year guerrilla war against Indonesian occupation.

Ruak, who resigned as defence chief late last year to run for president, had vowed to introduce mandatory military service if elected.

Ruak, whose name means "piercing eyes" in the local Tetum language, was 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, and the elections are the first in a series of landmark events this year for the half-island nation of 1.1 million people.

In May, East Timor will celebrate 10 years of independence, which came after three years of UN administration. On July 7, voters will choose a new government in a general election.

Ameerah Haq, the UN Secretary General's special representative for East Timor, reportedly said last week UN peacekeepers, stationed there since 1999, would pull out as planned by the end of 2012 if both elections are peaceful.

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