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Dili, East Timor - East Timor's Xanana Gusmao, whose party is a favourite in Saturday's parliamentary polls, is a former guerrilla leader and a wannabe pumpkin farmer fighting to stay on as the prime minister of one of Asia's poorest nations.
The charismatic grey-bearded 66-year-old, whose birth name is Kay Rala Gusmao, won the presidency in a landslide victory in 2002 and has emerged as one of the nation's most experienced leaders.
He finished his five-year presidency only to become prime minister in 2007, leading a coalition headed by his National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) party.
Gusmao is widely celebrated as a resistance leader during Indonesia's brutal 24-year occupation of East Timor, which ended in 1999 with a UN-backed referendum for independence.
At 24, Gusmao joined the colonial Portuguese army and served for three years, during which time he met his first wife Emilia Batista.
But he soon turned against the Portuguese, who had essentially ruled East Timor since the 1500s, and became active in the independence movement.
East Timor declared independence on November 28 1975, but just nine days later, Indonesia launched a bloody invasion and Gusmao fled to the jungle to join the resistance.
It was during this time that Gusmao took on the code name “Xanana”, which he picked up from a 1970's pop song that he has said he no longer remembers.
By 1981 he was formally elected commander-in-chief of the Falintil resistance army, a position he held until 1999 when he passed on the badge to now President Taur Matan Ruak.
The rebels, despite limited resources, stretched Indonesia's military with small-scale attacks across East Timor. But in 1992, after 17 years of guerrilla warfare, Gusmao was captured and jailed, accused of subversion.
He continued to direct the resistance from behind bars in Jakarta, where he also painted and wrote poetry, earning him the sobriquet of the “poet warrior”.
Gusmao has also often said his dream was to be a “pumpkin farmer” rather than a politician.
While in jail, he met his second wife, Australian aid worker Kirsty Sword, and the couple now have three sons.
After becoming prime minister, the former rebel found a new fight, this time against poverty. Around half of the nation's 1.1 million people live under the international poverty line.
Gusmao says he wants to use the $10 billion earned from oil and gas already pumped from the Timor Sea on development and opportunities for the youth.
“With this money we have to improve people's lives,” he said at a recent campaign rally, his voice breaking as though on the verge of tears.
“If you believe in me, I will stay true to my words,” he told a crowd of mostly young Timorese during the rally in the capital Dili that resembled a rock concert.
Parties need to work together and stop wasting time “disputing and blaming each other”, the prime minister said, as the crowd draped in green CNRT flags and covered in green face paint feverishly chanted “viva Xanana”, or long live Xanana.
But Gusmao also has his fair share of critics, who accuse the government of rampant corruption, with several cabinet members facing charges of graft and abuse of power.
None of the 21 parties competing in Saturday's polls is expected to win an outright majority, and Gusmao could again have to form a coalition to rule after the general elections. - Sapa-AFP