FILE PHOTO: East Timor's Prime Minister Jose Maria de Vasconcelos, known as Taur Matan Ruak, arrives at the ASEAN Summit held in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, May 10, 2023.
FILE PHOTO: East Timor's Prime Minister Jose Maria de Vasconcelos, known as Taur Matan Ruak, arrives at the ASEAN Summit held in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, May 10, 2023. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/Pool

East Timor heads to vote in historic parliamentary election

East Timorese voters headed to the polls in a parliamentary election that would likely see two resistance-era figures battle.

JAKARTA (Reuters) - East Timorese voters headed to the polls on Sunday in a parliamentary election that analysts said would likely see two resistance-era figures battle to be prime minister.

Sunday's poll is the country's fifth parliamentary election since East Timor gained full independence in 2002 following decades-long occupation by Indonesia.

José Maria Vasconcelos, who has been prime minister since 2018, is backed a four-party coalition led by the Revolutionary Front for an Independent Timor-Leste (FRETILIN). Analysts do not expect him to be appointed as PM again.

Seventeen parties are competing in the election but two, the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), led by independence hero Xanana Gusmao, and FRETILIN, led by resistance figure Mari Alkatiri, are expected to dominate.

The next PM is expected to be Gustmao or Alkatiri, depending whose party wins.

FILE PHOTO: Former president of East Timor Xanana Gusmao talks to journalists after a meeting with Indonesian Coordinating Minister of Politics, Law, and Security Affairs Wiranto (not pictured) in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 22, 2019.
FILE PHOTO: Former president of East Timor Xanana Gusmao talks to journalists after a meeting with Indonesian Coordinating Minister of Politics, Law, and Security Affairs Wiranto (not pictured) in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

East Timor has in recent years grappled with diversifying its oil- and gas-dependent economy.

"Xanana Gusmao has been in the opposition for the past three years and is trying to get back into power," Michael Leach of Australia's Swinburne University said of the country's former president and prime minister.

"CNRT and FRETILIN will certainly be the two largest parties," he said.

FILE PHOTO: East Timor's then-Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri stands during his swearing-in ceremony in Dili, East Timor, September 15, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: East Timor's then-Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri stands during his swearing-in ceremony in Dili, East Timor, September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lirio Da Fonseca

Some polls showed CNRT ahead. Leach said the victory of Jose Ramos Horta in last year's presidential election was seen as paving a way for CNRT's return to power.

The party with a parliamentary majority will nominate the next prime minister.

The new parliament will take office on June 12.

(Reporting by Ananda Teresia, Editing by Kate Lamb, Cynthia Osterman and Richard Chang)

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