Wednesday, May 09, 2007

East Timor Vote for Hope

(.. but there's confusion.. : read ABC News Online)

BAUCAU, East Timor, May 9, 2007 (AFP) - From just after dawn they began to queue, waiting patiently in the early light for polling stations to open. At first they numbered about 60, but they kept coming, and within an hour had swelled to several hundred at this primary school in East Timor's second city.
"If you want your country to be run by a person you trust, you have to vote," said Fransisca Belo as she joined the line for what is the tiny nation's first election since independence five years ago. Cancio Fernandes Quintao, a financial administrator at the local hospital, agreed. "Everyone should vote as the country needs a leader who loves and understands his people."
The queues at the school pointed to a good turnout, and observers said they were hopeful it would mirror the numbers at last month's round of voting.
"This is our right," said George Lopes Belo, 29, who was first in line. "We hope that the next president, whoever that is, can take East Timor out of the crisis, the conflict." Belo, who lives nearby, arrived about 30 minutes before the polls opened at the school in Bahu area of the city, east of the capital Dili. Unable to find steady work for several years, he said he hoped the new president would create jobs for the thousands of unemployed in this nation of just one million people.
"For the moment, everything is going well. I think the people need democracy, people need and want peace and they want reconciliation, and this is the way to solve the crisis," EU observer chief Javier Pomes Ruiz said. The quiet chatting among the voters in the rising heat was disrupted by the arrival of presidential candidate Jose Ramos-Horta and his large entourage. There were no cheers of welcome for the Nobel laureate, who spent about 20 minutes in the queue before delegating the duty to one of his minders. Voters looked on as Ramos-Horta, the current prime minister, disappeared to the terrace of a nearby house for a cold soft drink. "I'm totally relaxed, whatever the outcome, I will win," he told reporters. He returned in time, and held up his finger dipped in red ink after voting to warm applause from the crowd. Quintao said the Bahu area was a stronghold for the ruling Fretilin party whose candidate Francisco Guterres is challenging Ramos-Horta in the election to succeed the popular and charismatic Xanana Gusmao. "But it is quite alright for him to vote here. We do not have any animosity towards him or any other East Timorese politicians," Quintao said.
In Dili, voters were peacefully making their way to polling stations as police and Australian-led peacekeepers patrolled the streets. The election is being held amid tight security after violence erupted last year between factions of the military that degenerated into deadly gang clashes. More than 30,000 people remain displaced in Dili fearful to return home.
An election observer, Julio Tomas from the University of Peace of Timor Leste, said it appeared voter turnout in the capital was lower than the first round. "But I am convinced that the election is proceeding in a just way and with no manipulation ... because of the presence of international and national observers," he said.


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