By Ahmad Pathoni
DILI (Reuters) - East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta was leading in the capital Dili in presidential elections, preliminary vote counting showed on Tuesday, but a run-off looked likely.
The polls in the young nation a day earlier passed peacefully with only fairly minor glitches reported.
Eight candidates contested the vote, including Ramos-Horta, a Nobel peace prize winner who spearheaded an overseas campaign for independence from Indonesia.
Monday's turnout appeared to be high and, although official results are not due until next week, an election commission spokesman said preliminary results could emerge on Tuesday.
Ramos-Horta, former guerrilla fighter and Fretilin Party candidate Francisco Guterres and the Democratic Party's Fernando de Araujo were ahead in the capital Dili, where a fifth of East Timor's 1 million people live, according to preliminary figures.
"Preliminary results we have in Dili show Ramos-Horta, La Sama and Lu'olo on top", election commission spokesman Martinho Gusmao told reporters. "La Sama" and "Lu'olo" are the respective rebel nicknames of De Araujo and Guterres during the guerrilla war against Indonesian forces.
The spokesman said Ramos-Horta was leading in Dili with about 30 percent of the vote, followed by De Araujo with around 25 percent and Guterres with about 20 percent.
NO FAILED STATE
The Suara Timor Leste newspaper also said Ramos-Horta was winning convincingly in Dili, while the preliminary standings of candidates appeared mixed in some regional areas outside the capital contacted by Reuters.
Over half a million people were eligible to vote in the election, which outgoing President Xanana Gusmao described as a chance to demonstrate his nation was not a failed state.
If no one wins more than half the vote, a run-off will be held, a scenario some analysts see as likely.
Supporters of rival candidates clashed during campaigning last week, injuring more than 30 people and prompting international troops to fire tear gas and warning shots.
But over the election itself, few acts of violence or intimidation were reported by poll observers.
Campaigns had focused on how to reunite East Timorese, split by a regional divide that erupted into bloodshed last May after the sacking of 600 mutinous troops from the western region.
Gusmao, an ally of Ramos-Horta, is not running for re-election but plans to seek the more hands-on post of prime minister in a separate parliamentary election later this year.
Ramos-Horta, who has the highest international profile and is considered the front-runner, appeared upbeat in comments on the elections he made to Reuters at a Dili hotel on Monday.
"So far, I think (it's) very positive; enormous participation of the people. The incidents are marginal," he said.