Runoff vote likely in presidential election

? East Timor’s presidential elections appeared headed toward a runoff Monday, raising fears of prolonged instability in a young nation that nearly descended into civil war a year ago.

Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, who won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for championing East Timor’s struggle to end decades of brutal Indonesian rule, initially had been seen as the favorite for the five-year presidency.

But public disillusionment with the government has grown, and no clear winner among eight candidates emerged in early ballot counting. An outright majority was needed to avoid a runoff, which would be next month.

East Timor was heralded as a success in nation-building when it formally declared independence in 2002 but descended into chaos last year after then-Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri fired a third of the tiny army, provoking gunbattles between rival security forces that spiraled into gang warfare and looting.

At least 37 people were killed and some 155,000 fled their homes before the government collapsed.