|Subject: Ramos-Horta Vows Reform as ETimor
President; "Lu-Olo" Ready to Accept Defeat
Agence France-Presse Friday, May 11, 2007
Ramos-Horta Vows Reform as ETimor President
Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta vowed Friday to aggressively push for change in the troubled nation as he looked set to win this week's presidential election in a landslide.
With 90 percent of ballots counted after Wednesday's run-off, Ramos-Horta has an unbeatable lead in the race to succeed Xanana Gusmao, with 73 percent of the vote.
Although the role of president is a largely ceremonial one, Ramos-Horta said he would push the government to reform the troubled military and improve the economy to help East Timor's desperately poor.
"The reform of the security sector, the armed forces and the police is one of the priorities," Ramos-Horta said.
"We will also have to address the problems of IDPs (internally displaced persons) and how to accelerate the development of our economy," he told reporters in the capital Dili.
East Timorese, who turned out in large numbers on Wednesday to vote, are hopeful the decisive election of Ramos-Horta will help secure peace and stability in the tiny nation after a year of bloodshed and unrest.
The election for president in East Timor is the first since it won independence in 2002 after a bloody separation from occupying Indonesia three years earlier.
The outcome is a major blow to the ruling Fretilin party, the former resistance movement, whose candidate Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres said he was ready to accept defeat.
"For me, winning or losing is a normal thing. For me personally, as Lu-Olo, it is alright (if I lose)," Guterres told AFP.
Guterres said he would now focus on parliamentary polls in June when Gusmao, the former guerrilla leader who remains a hero to many East Timorese, will run for the powerful post of prime minister.
Ramos-Horta, who won the Nobel prize after bringing the plight of East Timor to the world's attention, said Guterres had offered his congratulations.
"I have met with (Fretilin leader) Mari Alkatiri, I went to his home and I spoke again this morning on the telephone with Lu-Olo and with other Fretilin leaders," he said.
"The Fretilin leaders have congratulated me, and pledged to cooperate with me and I to work with them."
Vote counting was ongoing, with the official result expected later Friday or Saturday.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard congratulated Ramos-Horta, calling the Nobel laureate a "good friend of Australia", while New Zealand said it looked forward to working with the new president to improve democracy in East Timor.
Both countries deployed troops to East Timor to quell violence last year which left at least 37 people dead and forced 150,000 to flee their homes. More than 30,000 remained displaced in Dili.
The unrest erupted after then prime minister Alkatiri dismissed hundreds of army deserters. Firefights broke out between factions of the military, and between the army and police, and degenerated into gang violence.
Foreign peacekeepers guarded polling stations this week, backed up by about 4,000 UN and local police, and remain on the streets in case of trouble.
Ramos-Horta said he would be more aggressive as president than Gusmao in working to improve the lives of the people in East Timor, which remains one of the world's poorest nations.
"President Xanana was a bit too passive when it came to exercising his authority -- too reactive rather than pro-active," Ramos-Horta told the BBC.
"In a sense, he never spoke out on budget issues. He never took initiatives on the economic front. Well, I'm doing it. I intend to do it," he said.
"I will speak my mind on economic issues so I really influence the decision-making by the government and by the parliament."
Ramos-Horta sweeps East Timor poll
DILI, May 11 (Reuters) - Nobel Peace prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta won nearly 70 percent of the votes in East Timor's presidential run-off, the election commission said on Friday, as European Union monitors endorsed the handling of the poll.
The sweeping victory, which still needs to be signed off by the court of appeal, has increased hopes of unity in a poor nation still struggling to heal divisions five years after it won independence from Indonesia.
The mood in the capital Dili was calm on Friday, with no sign of celebration parades in the young nation or protests.
"I'm happy with the results. I will carry out my duties according to the constitution and listen to advice from everybody so that I can take Timor Leste to a better future," the 57-year-old Ramos-Horta, who is currently prime minister, said on Thursday, referring to the official name of East Timor.
EU poll observers commended the way Wednesday's election was carried out after the first round a month ago was marred by complaints of widespread irregularities.
"The 9 May runoff presidential election has so far been well administered and peaceful, with respect for the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association," an EU spokesman said in a statement read out at a news conference.
Ramos-Horta and Francisco Guterres, a former independence fighter and president of the ruling Fretilin party, won the most votes in the first round, but none of the eight candidates won a clear majority, forcing the extra round.
All votes had now been counted at the district level, although some ballots were still on their way to Dili, election commission spokeswoman Maria Angelina Sarmento said.
Ramos Horta won 69 percent of votes, while Guterres got 31 percent.
Arsenio Bano, a Fretilin spokesman and labour minister, congratulated Ramos-Horta, a former journalist who spearheaded an overseas campaign for East Timor's independence.
"As a party, we will support the new president of the republic," Bano told Reuters, adding that the party had some complaints that it would present to the election commission.
"It was not a perfect election but we have to move forward. We have said we will win with dignity, we will lose with dignity."
A regional split erupted into bloodshed last May after the sacking of 600 mutinous troops from the western region. Foreign troops were brought in to restore order but 30,000 people remain in camps across Dili, afraid to go home.
Ramos-Horta, who is widely viewed as more friendly to the West, has pledged to work closely with the international community and speed up economic development.
East Timor is rich in energy resources such as natural gas but is only beginning to exploit them. In the meantime, many of its 1 million people are unemployed and most are poor.
Outgoing President Xanana Gusmao will now run for the more hands-on post of prime minister in parliamentary polls on June 30.
The Jakarta Post Friday, May 11, 2007
Ramos-Horta's lead assured in T. Leste
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Dili
Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta's landslide lead over Fretilin's Francisco Guterres `Lu-Olo' in the Timor Leste run-off presidential election has been confirmed by the country's National Election Commission (CNE), which had counted around 90 percent of votes at the district level on Thursday.
CNE spokeswoman Maria Angelina Sarmento announced that out of the 375,059 votes that the commission had gathered from the country's 13 districts, Ramos-Horta received 273,685 votes or 73 percent, while Guterres got 101,374 votes or 27 percent.
"We have completed 90 percent of ballot counting at the district level. Only two districts have not finished their ballot counting while 11 others have done theirs. Our preliminary results have confirmed that Ramos-Horta gets 73 percent of the votes and Guterres has 27 percent," she told a press conference.
With such a huge lead, Ramos-Horta will automatically win the presidency, even if Guterres sweeps all the remaining uncounted votes in the last two districts, Baucau and Lautem, both strongholds of Fretilin.
Baucau and Lautem have 60,690 and 31,268 registered votes respectively, and as of Thursday, Guterres led both districts with 9,407 and 12,254 votes, while Ramos-Horta had obtained 5,884 and 11,056 votes.
"We can't declare any candidate a winner yet because aside from the fact that the vote counting is still ongoing, we have to tabulate the district results nationally and then wait for a challenge from a certain candidate if they have an objection to the result in the high court in next several days. It is the court that then will decide the winner of the election later on," she said.
Maria said that the commission could not announce the total voter turn out number yet because the commission has to verify invalid and contested votes first to be able to determine the number of people that attended polling stations.
According to CNE's data, 524,073 people were eligible to vote in the run-off election.
Ramos-Horta will win the run-off with a landslide victory because he managed to get large wins in all of the 10 districts in the western part of the country, especially in Dili, Liquica and Aileu.
In Dili, out of 78,402 votes, Ramos-Horta managed to garner 62,694 votes against Guterres' 15,708, while in Liquica, Ramos-Horta and Guterres obtained 23,416 and 2,862 votes respectively. In Aileu, Ramos-Horta took 15,919 votes while Guterres has only 1,065.
Ramos-Horta said earlier he was convinced that he would win the election by a big margin.
"I am ready to be a president now, and I will realize all my promises to resolve the crises and refugees. I will work closely with the international community to bring this nation a bright future, and I will accelerate economic development as well as bringing foreign investors to eradicate the poverty in this nation" he told reporters.
Guterres' party announced that it would hold a press conference on Friday.
Earlier, while praising the election as a success and professionally conducted, Special Representative for the UN Secretary General for Timor Leste Atul Khare made an appeal to both candidates and their supporters to accept the results of the election.
"Looking at the series of elections so far, it's not too early to say that Timor Leste has been matured in democracy. It gives us hope for the future of the country. That's why I call on both candidates to accept the results of the election in the coming days. If any candidate has a legitimate challenge then they should bring it to the court," he told a press conference.
------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service