East Timor heads to the polls in parliamentary election

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.

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.

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)