East Timor's former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta won the country's presidential election runoff, returning to office 10 years after his first term, preliminary results showed Wednesday.
Ramos-Horta, 72, backed by the opposition National Congress of the Reconstruction of East Timor party, defeated incumbent President Francisco "Lu Olo" Guterres, the leader of Fretilin party, by 62.09 percent of the vote to 37.91 percent, according to data from election authorities.
The official results are expected to be available next week, they said. The final round of voting, held on Tuesday, saw 75.17 percent of the country's 859,925 registered voters cast ballots.
The next president, who will serve a five-year term, will be sworn in on May 20, the 20th anniversary of East Timor's independence.
Lu Olo, 67, said if the vote count confirms Ramos-Horta's victory, he has to respect it, according to Portuguese news agency Lusa.
During the election campaign, Ramos-Horta promised that he would focus on revitalizing the economy by creating more jobs, especially for young people.
He also pledged to strengthen ties with its neighboring countries such as Indonesia and Australia, improve health services for mothers and pregnant women and provide good nutrition for children.
In East Timor, about 40 percent of the population lives in poverty and youth unemployment remains high. One of the crucial issues during the campaign was how to reform its economy, which heavily relies on revenues from offshore oil and gas fields.
Ramos-Horta was a leader in the country's independence movement, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 and served as president from 2007 to 2012 and as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.
In the first round of voting last month, Ramos-Horta garnered 46.58 percent of the vote, while Lu Olo took 22.16 percent. The top two candidates defeated 14 other candidates, but neither crossed the 50 percent threshold for an outright win.
Indonesia annexed East Timor by force in 1974 after its being under Portuguese colonial rule for about 400 years.
East Timor formally gained independence in 2002 after two and a half years under U.N. administration following a referendum in 1999 in which its people overwhelmingly voted for separation.