04 July 2012

East Timor election campaigns draw to a close

July 04, 2012 10:54:23 - ABC News - East Timor has entered its second-last day of active campaigning for its Parliamentary elections, with a two day cooling off period before the vote on Saturday.

21 political parties are contesting the election and with all major parties split on how to fund development programs, it is unlikely that any party will win an outright majority on the weekend.

Plugging the hole left in employment and revenue will be a major challenge for the new government.

This will be the first time East Timor will hold elections without the United Nation's assistance.

Swinburne University East Timor specialist, Dr Michael Leach, told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program the election campaign has been going very smoothly compared to the 2007 pre-election period.

"Rallies have been going on peacefully throughout the country and in Dili in the main, they've been going on in stadiums, they haven't been going through the streets as much," Dr Leach said.

Dr Leach says Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's campaign has been more focussed on "rallying the faithful" around the charismatic leader, with policy-driven discussions happening behind the scenes.

UN withdrawal hopes

The United Nations will be able to honour its commitment to withdraw from East Timor in six months time if the weekend's election is carried out in a peaceful and fair manner.

Thousands of UN personnel are stationed across the country including over 1000 UN police.

In a bid to encourage a calm and peaceful environment, Fretlin, one of the major political parties, and known for its large and colourful campaigns, has cancelled its rally.

This need to maintain and encourage is at least one point on which all 21 political parties agree.

After 10 years of international assistance, many East Timorese believe it is time for the country to be self-reliant and truly independent.

High youth unemployment, food insecurity and a lack of basic infrastructure are just some of the issues affecting 1.1 million East Timorese.

See also East Timor Parliamentary Election 2012

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