Subject: RT: East Timor elections appear to go smoothly
East Timor elections appear to go smoothly
Sat Jun 30, 2007 5:01 PM IST
By Ed Davies and Tito Belo
DILI (Reuters) - East Timorese voted on Saturday in a parliamentary election that could put the impoverished young country on a new path after communal violence last year.
The election campaign was mostly peaceful and security in the capital low-key, with small groups of U.N. police wearing blue berets at polling stations.
Voting ended at 4 p.m. (0700 GMT) after streams of people in the former Portuguese colony had queued from early morning under fierce sunshine to cast their ballots in the third election in three months, following a presidential vote and run-off.
Fourteen parties contested the poll, widely regarded as a showdown between the ruling Fretilin party and CNRT, a party launched by Xanana Gusmao.
The election organising body said in statement that early estimates suggested a lower turnout than in this year's previous polls.
After serving as the country's first president, Gusmao -- a charismatic hero of the resistance to the decades of Indonesian occupation that followed Portugal's withdrawal in 1975 -- now wants the more hands-on post of prime minister.
"I don't care which party is elected, but I hope one of the 14 will soon form a good government and national parliament so that our interests are defended by creating jobs and setting laws... that soon end the crisis," Joao Pinto, 35, said at a polling station in the capital soon after casting his ballot.
The Fretilin government sacked 600 rebellious soldiers to trigger violence last May that killed 37 people and drove 150,000 from their homes.
Foreign troops, with Australia providing the largest contingent, were brought in to restore order, but sporadic violence and unrest have continued.
"Across the country voting has just come to a close and I'm pleased to say that so far polling has gone smoothly and there have been no major security incidents," Allison Cooper, a U.N. spokeswoman, told a news conference.
Officials noted some problems, however, including a polling station being briefly attacked in Viqueque, while one person was arrested at a polling station in Ermera for carrying arrows.
Mari Alkatiri, secretary general of Fretilin, said after voting in the capital he was confident his party would win and urged all East Timorese to accept the result.
"Fretilin will form an inclusive government and will see to peoples' necessities and restore security," said Alkatiri, who stepped down as prime minister after last year's turmoil.
CNRT spokesman Dionisio Babo also expressed confidence, but was concerned over reports of marked ballot papers in some areas.
An electoral official said later eight pre-marked ballot papers were found in Bobonaro district, but had been disqualified.
The recent presidential polls also saw claims of fraud and intimidation, although observers said the voting was mostly fair.
Nearly 500 foreign observers monitored Saturday's polls.
Julio Tomas Pinto of the University of Timor Leste said he did not expect either Fretilin or CNRT to win a clear majority in the 65-seat parliament.
"I predict both will get about 20 seats in parliament but to form the government in parliament they each need 35 or 34 seats... so they will have to form a coalition with other parties," he told Reuters Television.
Under a new system, ballot boxes will be transferred to regional counting centres, using helicopters in remote spots.
Vote counting will start on Sunday and preliminary results may emerge by early next week, officials say.
President Jose Ramos-Horta told Reuters in an interview on Friday that East Timor's leaders needed to unite to fight poverty and improve security.
East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence in a 1999 ballot surrounded by bloodshed blamed mostly on pro-Indonesian militia and Indonesian military elements.
The tiny, predominantly Catholic nation became a full-fledged nation in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration.
East Timor is one of the world's poorest countries but is starting to tap rich energy resources that over time could significantly raise standards of living.
Ramos-Horta said the country should use interest earned from a $1.2 billion oil fund, together with international aid and, possibly, bilateral borrowing to create jobs and slash poverty.
UN says East Timor elections quiet and orderly
Last Updated 30/06/2007, 21:14:10
The United Nations mission in East Timor has made the preliminary finding that Saturday's parliamentary poll in the country has proceeded without any major incidents.
Our reporter in Dili Geoff Thompson says even in the eastern districts of Viqueque where two people were shot earlier this month and in Ermera where dozens of houses have been burnt, East Timor's second parliamentary election has been a quiet and orderly affair.
Precise voter turnout numbers are not yet known.
But on the ground reports suggest an enthusiastic response from the young nation's 530,000 registered voters.
On Saturday night, United Nations and military helicopters have been used to move sealed ballot boxes to district centres where counting begins on Sunday morning.
Early national results are expected by Monday or Tuesday while the final vote percentages won by individual parties are not expected before the end of next week.
Polls close in East Timor as tight race predicted
June 30, 2007 - 6:54PM
East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta has urged his political peers to work together to rebuild the fledgling country, win or lose in Saturday's largely peaceful election.
Analysts are predicting a tight race between the ruling party Fretilin and the CNRT party, headed by former president Xanana Gusamo, in the parliamentary poll to decide who will govern East Timor for the next five years.
But most agree neither will secure an absolute majority in the 65-seat parliament, requiring a coalition with smaller parties to form government.
Counting will begin early tomorrow at 13 centres across the tiny half-island, after up to half a million East Timorese turned out to vote for one of 14 political groupings at more than 700 polling booths.
In Emera, a district south west of the capital Dili, there was even talk East Timor's most wanted man Alfredo Reinado could make an appearance to cast his ballot.
The rebel army leader led a breakout from a Dili prison almost a year ago and is hiding in the mountains in the district.
Reinado supporter Ernesto "Dudo" Fernandes said Reinado had voted in both rounds of the recent presidential elections at a polling booth in the coastal town of Atabae.
"He's not afraid of being captured if he comes to vote," Fernandes said.
"He's recently held talks with Xanana Gusmao and Prosecutor-General Longuinhos Monteiro over a negotiated settlement."
President Ramos Horta recently called off an Australian-led hunt for the rebel army leader, but it is believed there is still a warrant for his arrest.
United Nations spokeswoman Allison Cooper said the polling, which has now closed, had gone smoothly across the 13 districts with "no major security incidents".
There were minor issues, including one local chief taking voter cards off people in his village before they were returned, and one arrest in Emera after a man was found with home-made weapons at a polling station.
Ramos Horta today urged all parties to work together to rebuild the poverty-stricken country, which is still struggling to recover from violence which killed 37 and displaced 150,000 people a year ago.
"The party that wins should walk halfway, immediately meet with the other parties and invite them to form a government," Ramos Horta said.
"It will be good for the country and those who did not get enough votes will not feel excluded, alienated."
But East Timor's ruling party today declared the entire nation would lose out if it was defeated in the key poll.
"If Fretilin will lose, that means that East Timor will lose," parliamentary president Francisco "Lu Olo" Guterres said.
"The other parties don't have programs, they don't have plans, they don't have the capability to run this government."
Among those voting were dozens of prisoners and hospital patients, who got their first chance at democracy following changes to electoral laws.
At Gleno prison, a handful of international observers watched as most of the facility's 27 inmates voted for one of 14 political groups vying for representation in the 65-seat parliament.
"I think almost all of them voted, and then the prison guards voted as well," international observer Sophia Cason said.
"It was all fine and took less than 20 minutes...they looked happy to be participating in the election."
Dili voter Mario Soares Amaril was hopeful the new government could improve the lives of East Timorese.
"For the new government I just want to ask that government to not repeat the problems, not to make more trouble in East Timor, and I hope they will run the government in a good way."
People in Timor-Leste pick MPs, expect changes
Hundreds of thousands of people poured into polling stations across the tiny nation of Timor-Leste on Saturday to choose new parliamentary members with expectation of a change on their future.
Over 510,000 people would cast their votes at 705 polling stations in 13 districts to choose members for the 65-seat parliament from 14 competing political parties, according to the electoral commission (CNE).
The election was seen as a showdown between CNRT, a new party headed by former resident and guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao, and Fretilin, the leading group in the resistance movement against <http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/data/indonesia.html>Indonesia.
Gusmao has been seeking to break the grip held by Fretilin party since the independence of Timor-Leste five years ago, while the Fretilin party led by former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri accused Gusmao of being too ambitious.
"Xanana has big ambition to destroy me. I have no ambition to destroy Xanana. I respect him," said Alkatiri after casting his vote in the capital of Dili.
Gusmao, regarded as an ally of President Jose Ramos-Horta, set up the party recently with the aim of taking the more hands-on job of prime minister.
After giving his vote at Dili district, Gusmao told reporters that he was optimistic to win.
"I target to win in this parliamentary election," he said.
He said if he loses in the election, he prefers not to have a coalition with Fretilin
"I will be an opposition," said Gusmao.
Similarly, his rival Alkatiri is also confident that his party will get most votes, and he accused Gusmao of poor capability to lead the nation.
"We will win for absolute majority," said Alkatiri.
"I challenged Xanana for public debate, he didn't accept," he said.
Alkatiri was toppled from prime minister post after he sacked 600 soldiers in April last year, triggering an unrest in the country which caused 23 people killed and more than 33,000 people fleeing homes and living in tents.
"We have already showed our statesmanship. We have already showed our tolerance during one year," said Alkatiri.
The former prime minister noted that their capability and experience in governing the country matched with the immediate needs of the people in the country for a change.
"We have experiences of governing the country. We have a plan and a program," said Alkatiri.
"The others are only promising without competency to do this," he said.
One of the reasons voters support Fretilin is its reliable plan and program that could be implemented soon, rather than new parties which will take more time to arrange their plans.
"It would take a longer time to make a new plan," said 28-year- old Paulino Ximenes after voting.
Alkatiri also said that if he loses, he would become opposition.
President Jose Ramos Horta said that he would cooperate with whoever appointed by the parliament as prime minister, although many said that he and Gusmao are an ally.
"I am going to get along with all of them, with the former President Xanana, with DR Mari Alkatiri," said Horta after voting in the capital of Dili.
He admitted that the people want changes in the new nation.
"The mood is there. They want to change, change of direction, policies, and the attitudes the people want to," said Horta.
Horta, a Nobel laureate winner, said the winning party needs to collaborate with others in forming a cabinet.
Both the presidential election and the parliamentary election are the first since the country got its independence in May 2002 after 24 years under the Indonesian rule.
Street-gang fighting, rivalry among the political leaders, and rebellion of security forces are among the problems hit the nation.