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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Presidential poll ends in E Timor
Election workers prepare ballot boxes in Dili, East Timor, Tuesday, May 8, 2007
There are only two contenders in this run-off vote
The polls have closed in East Timor, after a presidential election seen as critical for the country's future.

Voters had a choice between the current prime minister and Nobel Peace winner Jose Ramos-Horta and the speaker of parliament, Francisco Guterres.

The winner will succeed Xanana Gusmao, who has led the nation since it won independence five years ago.

Turnout was high, with many voters expressing their hopes for a change to the poverty-stricken nation's fortunes.

"I voted for the future of the country. I hope the new president can build Timor Leste [East Timor] better," 22-year-old Albina Pereira told reporters.

Full results are not expected until Friday night, but partial returns may be released earlier and ballots are already being counted.

Campaign policies

This was the second and final round of polling, called after the first round last month failed to produce a decisive winner.

The first round was tarnished by accusations of glitches in the counting procedure, but so far only minor problems have been reported in Wednesday's poll.


The two candidates who made it this far were both confident of success as they went to register their votes.

"If I win the election, I win a... huge responsibility," said Mr Ramos-Horta. "But if I lose, I win my freedom to do whatever I want, to be a writer, to be an academic, to be a tourist, to travel."

"I want to win with dignity, but if I lose, I will also accept that with dignity," said Mr Guterres.

Analysts say Mr Ramos-Horta - the current prime minister - is the favourite to win as most of the six losing candidates in the first round are urging their supporters to back him.

But Mr Guterres also has strong support, and is backed by the ruling political party Fretilin, which was the political party of the former armed resistance movement and still has a strong following across the country.

Whoever becomes the next president will find it difficult to fill the shoes of Mr Gusmao, a charismatic former guerrilla leader who retains widespread popularity.

Mr Gusmao did not seek re-election as president, but hopes to become the next prime minister, a much more powerful position.

He has already announced his intention to run in parliamentary elections in June.

Past violence

Some 1,200 Australian-led UN peacekeeping troops, backed by a similar number of UN police officers, have been helping to ensure security during the election.

"We are satisfied that there's enough security in place to guarantee that East Timorese will vote in a safe manner on Wednesday," said Finn Reske-Nielsen, deputy head of the UN mission in the country, ahead of the vote.

Many people in East Timor hope these elections will bring an end to the political tension and instability that has blighted the young country, our correspondent says.

Last summer, more than 30 people were killed, and thousands displaced, in clashes between rival military factions.

Voters in East Timor cast their ballots

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