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Timor Leste votes for president in test for young nation

  • Raimundos Oki

    Associated Press

Dili | Mon, March 20, 2017 | 01:34 pm
Timor Leste votes for president in test for young nation People queue up to give their vote during the presidential election at a polling station in Dili, Timor Leste, on Monday, March 20, 2017. East Timorese went to vote Monday in the first presidential election since the UN officially ended the peacekeeping mission in the country in 2012. (AP/Kandhi Barnez)

Timor Leste voted for a new president Monday in an election that will test Asia's newest and poorest nation.

Francisco "Lu Olo" Guteres, a former guerrilla leader from the leftist Fretilin party, was up against seven other candidates. He and the Democratic Party's Antonio de Conceicao, the minister of education and social affairs, were the front-runners.

While Timor Leste's president has a mostly ceremonial role, the prime minister heads the government.

Guteres, 62, lost to current President Taur Matan Ruak in the 2012 presidential election. But in Monday's election, he had strong support from former Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, a resistance leader who remains influential in politics.

Ruak was not up for re-election and is expected to make a run for prime minister in July's parliamentary elections.

Timor Leste voted overwhelmingly in 1999 to end 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation that left more than 170,000 people dead.

Its transition to democracy has been rocky, with its leaders battling massive poverty, unemployment and corruption as the nation continues to recover from the bloody break for independence more than a decade ago.

More than 740,000 of the country's 1.1 million people were expected to vote Monday. While an early quick count will give a reliable indication of the election outcome within hours of the polls closing at 3 p.m., official results are not expected until Wednesday.

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