Gusmão wins East Timor’s first-ever presidency in a landslide, UN declares

Gusmão wins East Timor’s first-ever presidency in a landslide, UN declares

President-elect of East Timor Xanana Gusmão
Former guerrilla fighter and independence leader Xanana Gusmão today emerged as the first president-elect of East Timor after capturing a landslide victory in the final United Nations-run ballot before the territory celebrates its independence next month.

Mr. Gusmão garnered 82.7 per cent of the 378,548 ballots cast in Sunday’s election, easily outdistancing his only opponent, Legislative Assembly Vice President Xavier do Amaral, who won just 17.3 per cent of the valid votes.

The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) announced the official outcome at a press conference in the capital, Dili, after the last of East Timor’s 13 districts finished tallying ballots overnight.

The European Union Electoral Observer Mission – the largest of 35 international monitoring groups – declared today that it had “full confidence” in the election result.

The vote totals were forwarded today to UNTAET’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Board of Commissioners, which still must certify the result and submit it to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 21 April.

Appearing at the press conference, UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello congratulated Mr. Gusmão for his victory. “I trust that Xanana Gusmão will devote his infinite energy and will to fulfilling the noble pledges he made during the campaign,” he said. “I also want to congratulate runner-up Francisco Xavier do Amaral for his honourable campaign and for serving the people of East Timor.”

“It is with enormous gratitude and humility that I received the trust that the people have put in me,” Mr. Gusmão told journalists. “By the decision of the majority of our people, I am the elected President, and I become a president for the whole nation, not only those who voted for me.”

Mr. Vieira de Mello invited the president-elect to meet with him and Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri tomorrow to review the final weeks of transition from UN administration to independence. They will also discuss a 24 April UN Security Council meeting in New York expected to be attended by East Timorese leaders, and preparations for independence celebrations that will culminate in a 20 May handover ceremony.

With Mr. Gusmão’s election, the last major democratic institution was put in place in East Timor before independence. The Legislative Assembly – popularly elected in a UN-administered ballot last August – will transform itself into a National Parliament on 20 May, and the new East Timor Government will be sworn in the same day.