President Jose Ramos Horta conceded defeat on March 19 after failing to win enough votes to make it into the second round of Timor-Leste’s ongoing presidential election. In an email interview, Gordon Peake, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program, discussed Timor-Leste’s presidential election.
WPR: Who are the candidates in the runoff election, and what are their platforms and electoral bases of support?
Gordon Peake: The first round whittled down 12 candidates to two men who were once comrades-in-arms in the Timorese resistance. On April 16, Francisco Guterres from the opposition FRETILIN party will be pitted against Taur Matan Ruak, the former chief of the army, who ran as an independent but received backing from Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. In the first round, Guterres received 28.76 percent of the vote and Ruak 25.71 percent; the candidates are now scrambling to secure the support from the large numbers of Timorese who voted for other candidates. Outgoing president and third-place finisher Jose Ramos-Horta has pledged to remain neutral in the race.