Subject: ETimor poll will be peaceful, tips UN official [2 reports]

also: Reuters: East Timor on Course For Largely Smooth Polls: U.N

ETimor poll will be peaceful, tips UN official

JAKARTA, June 26 (AFP) - East Timor's parliamentary polls this week should be peaceful, the top UN official based there said Tuesday as he warned that international aid will be needed for the tiny nation for decades.

"Everything now appears to be on track for successful elections ... We are confident that next Saturday's vote would be largely peaceful," said the UN secretary-general's special representative to East Timor, Atul Khare.

East Timor's nearly 530,000 voters are to cast ballots to elect 65 parliamentary representatives after successful presidential polls last month that saw Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta sweep into office.

Saturday's polls are likely to be a close contest between a new party created by former president and independence hero Xanana Gusmao and the ruling Fretilin party, which lost some of its lustre after violence rocked the nation last April and May, leaving at least 37 people dead and many homeless.

Ramos-Horta, Gusmao's political ally, trounced a Fretilin candidate in the presidential second round of voting, winning 69 percent of the vote.

"I do not see any major upheaval taking place no matter which party wins and no matter which party so-called loses," Khare told a briefing in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

"All 14 political parties and coalitions have signed a code of conduct and a political party accord which has committed them to a peaceful campaign period, and more importantly to ensuring that the period following the vote will be equally peaceful," he said.

Several isolated violent incidents have already marred campaigning, including the deaths of two people. However, some 1,700 UN police as well as an Australia-led peacekeeping contingent -- which Dili requested amid last year's bloody unrest -- have been quick to restore order.

Last year's violence showed that the half-island nation still needs help to build its democracy, and that the international community had pulled out too soon in the wake of its independence, Khare said.

"Considerable assistance will be required to this young country for a period of time -- and I count that time in decades, I don't count that time in years," he said.

"I would say at least, easily, 15 to 20 years is the timeframe where such assistance might be required."

The UN was winding down its mission in Dili when unrest occurred, triggered by the sacking of some 600 soldiers who had deserted complaining of ethnic discrimination.

The Fretilin prime minister at the time, Mari Alkatiri, stepped down to take responsibility for the crisis.

East Timor endured a violent transition to freedom after 24 years of occupation by neighbouring Indonesia that ended in 1999. Most of the population was displaced and the majority of its infrastructure destroyed.


East Timor on Course For Largely Smooth Polls: U.N

JAKARTA, June 26 (Reuters) - Parliamentary elections in East Timor at the weekend should be largely peaceful and fair despite some tensions in the run-up, the U.N. envoy to the young nation said on Tuesday.

East Timorese will cast their votes on Saturday for a third time this year in the elections, results of which will be crucial for the country's stability after last year's deadly violence.

Campaigning got off to a bloody start after two backers of a party led by former President Xanana Gusmao were killed in early June, but since then it has been relatively peaceful.

"Everything now appears to be a on track for a successful election," Atul Khare, special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for East Timor, told a news conference in Jakarta.

"We acknowledge that isolated incidents will occur," he said. "But no major upheaval will take place no matter which party wins."

Fourteen parties including independence hero Gusmao's CNRT and the left-leaning Fretilin will fight for a majority in the 65-seat parliament.

U.N. police would be deployed to help secure districts that saw violence during the campaign period, mostly in the east of the country, Khare said.

He also said last-minute changes in the vote counting system from that of the previous elections would help bring a fair vote.

Instead of counting votes at polling stations, the Fretilin-dominated government recently pushed through a law so ballots will be moved to district counting centers, with the aim of reducing possible intimidation or violence.

Critics worry the change could delay the count and mean more allegations of vote-rigging, although Khare said the U.N. mission would closely supervise the transfer of ballots to cut down on risk of fraud.

East Timor voted to split from 24 years of often harsh Indonesian rule in a violence-marred referendum in 1999. It became fully independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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