Timor-Leste went to the polls on Monday to elect a new president in a run-off vote, as the young democracy prepares to celebrate its first decade of independence and bid goodbye to UN forces.
Voters queued before polls opened at around 7am (2200 GMT Sunday), an AFP correspondent saw, in a contest pitting Francisco Guterres "Lu Olo" against Taur Matan Ruak.
A steady trickle of voters cast their ballots at the Motael primary school, a polling station in the leafy Farol suburb of Dili, emerging with purple-stained index fingers.
"I will win this election. I will become a president for all the people to secure stability and peace," Lu Olo said after voting at the school.
"As I've said throughout the campaign, zero enemies, everyone will be our friend," he told reporters.
The winner of the contest will become the leader of the country, replacing the Nobel Prize-winning incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta, who trailed in third place in the first round on March 17.
Although both candidates are former guerrilla leaders, Lu Olo has shed his military image, while Ruak has reinforced his during campaigning.
"One of them is not a good choice for us for peace in Timor-Leste," said Felisiano Da Conceicau, a 36-year-old veterinarian who did not say who he was voting for.
"The people hope for peace," he added.
While the presidency is largely ceremonial, it has enjoyed a high profile under Ramos-Horta, and the elections are the first in a series of landmark events this year for the half-island nation of 1.1 million people.
In May, Timor-Leste will celebrate 10 years of independence, which came after three years of UN administration. On July 7, voters will choose a new government in a general election.
Ameerah Haq, the UN Secretary General's special representative for Timor-Leste, reportedly said last week that UN peacekeepers, stationed since 1999, would pull out as planned by year's end if both elections are peaceful.
The first round of voting was peaceful but ahead of the run-off at least two homes of political supporters were torched and a number of campaign vehicles attacked.
On Friday about 100 people reportedly pelted stones at Ruak's headquarters in Dili.
Deputy police commander Alfonso de Jesus said that despite the incidents he expected the elections to go smoothly.
Lu Olo, the most popular candidate in last month's poll, with close to 29 per cent of the vote, is backed by several first-round candidates.
The softly spoken 57-year-old, who is known by his nom de guerre and heads the opposition Fretilin party which is synonymous with the resistance, lost the presidency to Ramos-Horta in a run-off in 2007.
Ruak, whose name means "piercing eyes" in the local Tetum language, is the former commander of Fretilin's military wing.
The 55-year-old, running as an independent and standing for president for the first time, is backed by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's powerful National Congress for the Reconstruction of Timor-Leste party. He won about 26 per cent of the first-round vote.
Ruak, who has vowed to introduce mandatory military service if elected, is accused by the United Nations of involvement in illegal weapons transfers in 2006, when rioting and factional fighting left the nation on the brink of civil war.
The voting age for Monday's polls is 17, and more than 620,000 are eligible to vote at 850 polling stations nationwide. Polls remain open until 3pm.
By law, provisional results must be announced 48 hours after polls close. - AFP