Guterres appears set to become Timor-Leste president

Speaking in the small nation’s capital Dili, the General Director of the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration, Acilino Miranda Branco, updated the vote tally as it stood at the time.

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“The two candidates who obtained the most votes are, first, Francisco Guterres, ‘Lu-Olo,’ with a total of 284,305 votes, or 57.63 per cent, and then, second, Antonio da Conceicao, with a total of 158,288 votes, or 32.09 per cent.”

The election commission is expected to announce the final result officially in the coming days, and it will be verified by a court in about a month.

But the preliminary count strongly suggests Mr Guterres will get across the line in the first round.

As well as having been the inaugural president in the Timor-Leste parliament from 2002 to 2007, the 62-year-old is also a former guerilla commander representing Fretilin.

Fretilin was the traditional party of resistance to, first, the land’s Portuguese rulers, then its Indonesian rulers.

Fretilin general secretary Mari Alkatiri, a former prime minister, says he is confident his party’s man has sealed the victory.

He says he was confident all along that Mr Guterres would win comfortably.

“Still 4 per cent or 5 per cent to be counted, (but) it’s not going to change the reality. And, of course, I always expected to have Lu-Olo winning in the first round, no second round would take place. He won already. He’s the president-elect.”

Even Carlos Saky, an official from the Democratic Party that supports Mr Conceicao, has posted congratulations to Mr Guterres on social media.

Ironically, the Democratic Party is the coalition partner of Fretilin in parliament, where, together, they form government by a tiny majority.

Former president Jose Ramos-Horta says he hopes all of Timor-Leste will unite now as the country heads towards parliamentary elections scheduled for July.

“I hope we, our people – particularly leaders, where there are followers – continue to behave in a disciplined manner, in a civic manner, after this on the way to the legislative election. We all celebrate whoever wins. We must embrace the leader who wins, and, the leader who wins, I hope he embraces everybody else.”

Assuming he wins, Mr Guterres will take over from the man who defeated him in the last presidential election back in 2012, independent Taur Matan Rauk.

It appears the biggest challenge for him when he begins his five-year term will be the nation’s economy.

Unemployment is running at around 60 per cent in the nation of 1.2 million people as there has been a failure to spread the wealth from oil and gas revenues.

The energy sector accounted for around 60 per cent of Timor-Leste’s gross domestic product in 2014 and more than 90 per cent of government revenue.

Mr Guterres has promised he would wean the country off its heavy reliance on the resource sector and help it diversify into agriculture and manufacturing.