Former army chief and guerrilla fighter Jose Maria de Vasconcelos, also known as Taur Matan Ruak, speaks to reporters in Dili April 16, 2012. Vasconcelos won about 61 percent of the 452,000 votes that have been counted so far, Tomas Cabral, an election commission official, was quoted as saying on local television and radio in the capital Dili. Picture taken April 16, 2012. REUTERS/Lirio Da Fonseca
Former guerrilla freedom fighter Taur Matan Ruak won the East Timor presidential elections held Monday, according to the preliminary results announced Tuesday.
Ruak, 55, an independent candidate, garnered 61.23 percent of the votes in the presidential run-off, according to information from the country's elections secretariat. His challenger Francisco Guterres, a former guerrilla fighter who had an upper edge before the polls, trailed behind with 38.77 percent votes.
Though all the votes are counted, a formal announcement is pending a court of appeals examination of the results, which is a must according to the law.
We are very much elevated by the result, by the current outcome, said Ruak's spokesman Fidelis Magalhaes, according to an AFP report.
Once the results are confirmed, Ruak will assume office as the president of the impoverished democracy, which has a battered past. He will be replacing incumbent President Jose Ramos-Horta.
Ramos-Horta, a Nobel laureate, was knocked out of the race in the first round of elections held last month. He accepted his defeat and announced that he would hand over power to the winner May 19 when his term ends.
The role of president is ceremonial in East Timor, but it has gained attention recently as the country is in a transitional process.
The country has a turbulent past. It got independence in 2002 after a two-decade-long Indonesian rule, which witnessed bloody guerrilla war between the freedom fighters and the Indonesian military.
East Timor was under the United Nations Transitional Administration for three years after the 1999 break-up that forced the Indonesian troops to withdraw from the country.
Elections to the parliament will be held July 7, following which the Australian led-UN peace keepers deployed in the country will be withdrawn, facilitating a total transfer of power to the young democracy.