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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 April 2007, 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK
Run-off likely in E Timor poll
Jose Ramos-Horta (centre) waits in line to cast his vote at a polling station in Dili on 9 April 2007
Jose Ramos-Horta (centre) is seen as a leading contender for president
Preliminary results in East Timor's presidential election show Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta with a narrow lead over his seven rivals.

But analysts say he is unlikely to win the 50% majority needed to prevent a second round run-off.

Most of the results are so far from Dili, as technical problems have slowed counting outside the capital.

Despite the glitches, international observers say they are satisfied with the conduct of the election.

This was the first presidential poll for East Timor since it won independence from Indonesia in 2002.

Many are hoping the vote will help resolve political tensions and instability in the young country.

Clashes last summer between rival military factions resulted in street violence that left 30 people dead.

'High turnout'

Official results are not expected until 16 April, but election commission spokesman Martinho Gusmao said on Tuesday that preliminary results from Dili district showed Mr Ramos-Horta was ahead with about 30% of the vote.

Despite some flaws, despite some intimidation, it can be said to be free and fair
Jose Ramos-Horta

He was being trailed by Fernando "Lasama" De Araujo, chairman of the opposition Democrat Party, with 25% of the vote, and the powerful ruling Fretilin Party chairman Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres, who had 20%.

They are among eight candidates seeking to replace Xanana Gusmao, who is stepping down.

But the picture elsewhere in the country - where the counting has been delayed by technical glitches - is not so clear.

Analysts say an outright victory by any one candidate is unlikely, which would mean a run-off vote next month.

Turnout on Monday was thought to be high, with just over half of East Timor's one million population eligible to vote.

Election observers reported few problems, but extra ballot papers had to be delivered by UN helicopter to several districts, where they ran out.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the vote.

His office said he was "heartened that the election was conducted in a general atmosphere of order and calm," and that the initial indications show high voter turnout.

"He hopes that calm will prevail while the counting proceeds and when the results are announced," the statement added.

UN support

Mr Ramos-Horta, who won the Nobel peace prize for championing East Timor's independence from Indonesia, has been seen as the leading contender to replace Mr Gusmao, an ally.

Xanana Gusmao votes with son Daniel in Balibar, East Timor, on 9 April 2007
Xanana Gusmao says he plans to run for prime minister

Mr Gusmao says he intends to run for the more hands-on role of prime minister in general elections set for June that will decide a new parliament and government.

Monday's vote was being seen as a trial run for that poll.

Some 3,000 international police and troops were on the streets to provide security for the polls.

These troops - mainly Australian - have been in East Timor since June last year to help stabilise the country after the clashes, which caused thousands to flee their homes.

The UN expects to be in East Timor for many years, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in the capital Dili.

But however smoothly this election goes, our correspondent says, restoring effective government will be a long-term task.

Last year's crisis re-opened deep splits in East Timorese society, many dating back to the long war against Indonesia's rule.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
People in East Timor queue to vote



SEE ALSO
E Timor holds presidential polls
09 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
East Timor election 'manipulated'
06 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Poll violence flares in E Timor
30 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Campaigning begins in East Timor
23 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: East Timor
17 Oct 06 |  Country profiles

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