Subject: Gusmao campaign accuses Fretilin members of dirty tricks

Also: Fretilin Chief Charges Gusmao 'Attacking' Ruling Party Leadership

Gusmao campaign accuses Fretilin members of dirty tricks in poll campaign

DILI, East Timor, April 3 (AFP) - Some members of East Timor's ruling party Fretilin were accused of waging a dirty tricks campaign to try to reduce the vote for independence hero Xanana Gusmao in this month's presidential election.

"We have received information from most of the districts documenting these allegations," said Milena Pires, Gusmao's campaign coordinator.

She said some Fretilin members -- not necessarily on instructions from the leadership -- had been telling Gusmao's supporters they should either vote for his rival, Francisco Xavier do Amaral, or not vote at all.

"There are other reports that people are being told to mark the ballot paper in different places (to spoil the vote)," Pires told AFP.

She said Gusmao's campaign was documenting the reports and was concerned about them but had not yet decided whether to complain to the Independent Electoral Commission.

The April 14 election will be only the second free vote for East Timorese after more than three centuries of Portuguese colonisation and 24 years of often brutal Indonesian rule.

"People are starting to understand the importance of casting their vote and how they should vote," Pires said. "It's fairly serious, if these reports are correct, that rather than build on this process, it is going in the opposite direction."

She said she did not believe that Amaral, who is not officially backed by Fretilin, was involved in any way. "We don't question his integrity."

Fretilin spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment. The party won 57 percent of the vote in elections last August and will form the future government.

Gusmao is hugely popular and is expected to win the presidential poll regardless of any interference.

One analyst said the dirty tricks campaign might be an attempt to trim the size of his majority to reduce his moral authority as president of the territory, which becomes independent on May 20.

Fretilin's military wing headed by Gusmao led armed resistance to Indonesian rule but Gusmao, 56, has since distanced himself from the party.

He was nominated by nine political parties, but not Fretilin, on his condition that he would only run as an independent.

Many of Gusmao's supporters complained during a rally at Maubessi on Sunday that some people had threatened them if they vote for him.

At two other rallies on Monday in Same and Ainaro supporters also complained of intimidation. They told Gusmao that after the election they would hide in the jungle for fear of reprisals.

The presidency is a largely ceremonial post under the new constitution with the government led by future Fretilin prime minister Mari Alkatiri holding executive power.


03 Apr 02 13:19 East Timor:
Fretilin Chief Charges Gusmao 'Attacking' Ruling Party Leadership

The head of East Timor´s ruling Fretilin party Wednesday denied charges his party was orchestrating a boycott of presidential candidate Xanana Gusmao and accused the independence leader of "attacking" the Fretilin leadership.

In comments to Lusa in Dili, Francisco Guterres, known as Lu- Olo, described as "false" Gusmao campaign allegations that Fretilin had never intended to back Gusmao´s candidacy and was now discreetly urging voters shun the prime presidential contender.

Guterres, the speaker of Dili´s Constitutent Assembly, said the alleged campaign statements by Gusmao were "completely distorted from reality.

"We are doing the possible to lessen (the tense) situation, but leaders must be aware that they cannot go around attacking each other", he added.

Guterres said that Fretilin, which overwhelmingly won the Constituent Assembly elections in August, would give its supporters freedom of choice in the April 14 presidential vote, in which Gusmao faces a alone rival, the assembly´s deputy speaker, Xavier do Amaral.

Gusmao, who once led Fretilin in the stuggle against Indonesian occupation, refused to enter the presidential race as an independent or with formal Fretilin support.

He opted to run with the backing of nine small parties, in part, analysts said, to counterbalance Fretilin´s dominant hold on the territory´s political life.

SAS/ASP -Lusa-


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