With counting almost finished in the second round of East Timor’s presidential elections, it appears that Jose Ramos Horta will win an overwhelming victory. Incomplete figures show that Prime Minister Ramos Horta has won well over 70% of the vote, and while the final tabulation will probably show a slight decline in this number, his victory over Fretilin’s Francisco ‘Lu Olo’ Guterres has been emphatic.
The two main features of the second round of voting have been the high voter turn-out, and the consistency of the vote.
Despite many predictions that many East Timorese would not vote in a ballot in which their preferred candidate did not stand, it now seems that the voter turn-out was equal to or possibly slightly greater than the turn-out for the first round of voting a month ago. This reflected a number of parties getting behind Ramos Horta’s bid for the presidency, and the party faithful following that lead.
However, the strong vote for Ramos Horta also reflected a pronounced anti-Fretilin feeling among many voters, following last year’s troubles and a seeming unwillingness to recognise its failings since then. In this, the Fretilin/non-Fretilin split was closely consistent with the voting in the first round.
From this consistent voting pattern, it is now possible to extrapolate to the coming parliamentary elections. The clear indication is that Fretilin will probably receive around 30% of that vote, likely giving them the largest plurality.
As the new president, Ramos Horta will have to invite the party with the largest plurality to form a government. If it cannot put together a coalition then the offer will revert to the next biggest party, probably Xanana Gusmao’s CNRT or the Democratic Party. A coalition of these two, also including others, seems most likely.
As with East Timor’s previous elections, this ballot has been marked by ordinary people often travelling long distances over difficult terrain by foot, usually in their finest clothes, to have a say in their country’s future.
After a vitriolic campaign, the dignity with which ordinary people voted, and the importance they placed upon that act, were perhaps the greatest guarantee of the success of East Timor’s democratic future.