Subject: LUSA: Poll shows FRETILIN slipping, but keeping majority support

East Timor: First poll shows FRETILIN slipping, but keeping majority support

Dili, Nov. 6 (Lusa) - East Timor's governing FRETILIN party has lost electoral support but retains majority backing after nearly 18 months in power, according to the country's first political poll, sources told Lusa Thursday.

The poll, which will be released next week, showed that, if elections were held now, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's FRETILIN would get a fraction more than 50 percent of the vote, down from its landslide 57.4 percent in the pre-independence ballot in August 2001.

Sources linked to the polling, which was carried out with the aid of the US International Republican Institute, said the two largest opposition parties made significant gains.

The Democratic Party would get 3-to-4 percent more votes than its 2001 tally of 8.7 percent and the third-ranked Social Democratic Party would take an additional 2 percent, according to the poll.

The more than 1,000 Timorese polled also indicated that the country's most popular figure is the former Catholic bishop of Dili, Carlos Ximenes Belo, a Nobel Peace laureate, with a 95 percent approval rating.

President Xanana Gusmao and Catholic Bishop Bas?io do Nascimento drew for second place with 94 percent each.

With a 49-percent approval rating, Alkatiri placed behind Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta (83 percent) and Defense Forces chief Brig. Taur Matan Ruak (74 percent).

Mario Carrascalao, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, also beat out the prime minister with 64 percent preference.



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