Campaigning began on 23 March, the day after two people were killed in gun battles with police in the capital Dili, though Ramos-Horta did not mention this in his opening campaign speech, instead focusing on poverty.
Early results were announced by a spokesman for the national elections commission, Martinho Gusmão, who said that results from the capital Dili showed Ramos-Horta with about 30%, Araújo with about 25%, and Amaral and Guterres with about 20% each. On 11 April, the president of the commission said that Guterres was in first place with 28.8% and would participate in a second round to be held in May, while Ramos-Horta had 22.5% and Araújo had 18.6%. Five of the candidates — Araújo, Amaral, Lobato, Coelho, and Tilman — demanded that vote counting cease, alleging major problems in the election, and said that counting should only be conducted with all the candidates present to observe; they said that they would legally challenge the outcome. Soon afterward, Ramos-Horta joined the calls for a recount, and also called for a U.N. investigation regarding the absence of votes from 150,000 citizens. Commission spokesman Martinho Gusmão subsequently said on 12 April that there would not be a recount, but on 13 April he said that there were inconsistencies in the vote count and that it was possible that a re-vote might be necessary in some parts of the country. According to final results released by the electoral commission on 18 April, Guterres had 27.89% of the vote (112,666 votes) and Ramos-Horta had 21.81% (88,102 votes), which meant that the two would face each other in a second round. Araújo followed in third place with 19.18% (77,459 votes). Voter turn-out was placed at 81.79%. Following the release of the results, candidates had 24 hours to appeal, and three of the losing candidates, Araújo, Amaral, and Lobato did so, but the results were confirmed by an appeals court. On 26 April, Araújo announced his party's support for Ramos-Horta in the second round; Ramos-Horta also received the support of four out of the five other candidates: Amaral, Lobato, Coelho da Silva, and Carrascalão. Manuel Tilman endorsed Guterres.
|District||Guterres||Ramos-Horta||de Araújo||de Amaral||Lobato||Tilman||Coelho da Silva||Carrascalão|
The ISF (International Stabilisation Force) should not be frightening and intimidating an entirely peaceful election gathering... We are not convinced that there is no connection between the troops' behaviour and the Australian Government's apparent support for José Ramos-Horta.|20px|20px
Both Ramos-Horta and the United Nations rejected the Fretilin's claims. On 8 May, the day before the election, Ramos-Horta rebutted, saying:
Why are they so afraid, so upset that the international security forces go to the east? Because they wanted to operate, put pressure, threaten people with absolute impunity, without a neutral force standing by. That's why they're so upset.|20px|20px
Prior to the election, both candidates agreed they would accept the result no matter the outcome, with outgoing President Xanana Gusmao also urging all sides to vote peacefully and accept the result.
|Francisco Guterres||Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN)||127,342||30.82|
|Total valid votes||413,177||100.00|