World Bulletin / News Desk
East Timor voted for a new president Monday, with a former guerrilla fighter tipped for victory after winning the backing of the two biggest parties, in a new sign of stability for Asia's youngest nation.
The vote comes at a challenging time for the tiny half-island nation 15 years after gaining independence, with oil reserves running dry and its leaders struggling to reach agreement with Australia in a row over lucrative energy fields.
It is the first presidential election since the departure of United Nations peacekeepers in 2012 but despite fears of violence there has been only sporadic and low-level unrest in the run-up to the vote.
Francisco Guterres, known by his nom de guerre "Lu-Olo", is favourite to win the presidency which is largely ceremonial but can have a key role in keeping the peace between the country's feuding politicians.
He is leader of the second-biggest party, Fretilin, and also received the backing of independence hero Xanana Gusmao and his CNRT party, the country's largest.
Analysts say the unified candidacy will boost stability in a nation that has been repeatedly rocked by bouts of violence since gaining independence in 2002 following a brutal 24-year Indonesian occupation.
"That is good from the point of view of stability, because competitive politics can raise tensions," Damien Kingsbury, an East Timor expert from Australia's Deakin University, told AFP.
Kingsbury said it suggests that the country will continue to be led by a unity government following parliamentary elections later in the year.
But he added that having no viable opposition could raise concerns about the government's accountability.
Guterres is from a humble family and like many members of East Timor's political class participated in the bloody struggle against Indonesian occupation. He was Fretilin's unsuccessful candidate for presidential polls in 2007.
There are eight candidates running in the presidential polls, and whoever wins will preside over a nation with huge challenges.
As well as diversifying the resource-rich economy away from a reliance on oil, the country's leaders must agree a new sea border with Australia after tearing up a contentious maritime treaty that cuts through energy fields.
If none of the candidates win more than 50 percent of votes Monday, the election will go to a run-off in April. Polls close at 3:00 pm (0600 GMT) and preliminary results should be known within a few days.
Many of the candidates are not serious contenders and are more concerned with raising the profile of their parties before the more important parliamentary elections that will decide the government and prime minister.
Such set-piece rallies, organised by the authorities, are a regular feature of political life in Pyongyang, and are intended as a physical demonstration of popular support for the leadership.
Passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law will convince other Moro rebel groups to disarm and unite, says MILF's Ghazali Jaafar
Punjab and Haryana High Court frees 3 rape convicts on bail, blame victim for act
It could be at least another two weeks before the outcome is known after Prime Minister Bill English's National party fell just short of confirming a fourth-term in power.
Sea King Helicopter fires missile in open sea and successfully hits target, says navy spokesman
The epicenter is roughly the same as that of a previous shallow earthquake on September 3, which turned out to be caused by a North Korean nuclear test, the official Xinhua news agency said.
No Indian role under new US South Asia and Afghanistan policy is acceptable, says Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif
Duterte: "We will not celebrate, after all have been said and done, we will just go out quietly. No one wins this war."
Moreover, the death risk for the Rakhine natives continues due to malnutrition and unsanitary environment even after they flee to Bangladesh.
Mass exodus of the Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh may be categorized as irregular movement
Kuveyt Turk's donation to Turkish Red Crescent will help Rohingya Muslims being persecuted in Myanmar
Experts predict increased likelihood of eruption on island of Bali
Some 429,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived into Bangladesh since Aug. 25, UN Migration Agency says
The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) said it was probing the incident.
Philippine president said he would lift military rule in Mindanao once Marawi has been cleared, improvised explosive devices
Kim Jong-un considers "highest-level" response to Donald Trump's UN speech