East Timor, the quiet election for a new president
Dili (AsiaNews /
Agencies) - East Timor's election for a new
president has ended peacefully and without major incidents. The polls opened this
morning at 7 and so far there are no allegations of fraud or irregularities,
the election is deemed crucial by international observers, to assess the
process of democratization in the small nation in 10 years since its
independence from Indonesia.
Over 1200 UN peacekeepers provided security, ready to intervene in case of
accidents. Today's are the second presidential "free" elections in
the country's history, the first vote, in 2007, was marked by violent clashes -
during the campaign - which caused 37 deaths and threatened to plunge East
Timor into a veritable civil war.
Today 1.1 million people went to the polls, the first of a series of key events that will determine the future stability of the nation. Among others, the parliamentary elections in June and later this year - after three years under UN administration and 10 since full independence in 2002 - there will be a complete withdrawal of UN troops who have so far ensured public security.
Twelve candidates will compete for the office president, although the final victory is a competition between three leading national figures: the current president, 62 year old Ramos Horta (Nobel laureate in 1996 along with Bishop Carlos Belo), the Fretlin Party leader Francisco "Lu Olo" Guterres - who lost his challenge in the previous elections - and the former Armed Forces chief Taur Matan Ruak. Local political experts point on the victory of the latter, seen as a "strong man" of the nation, considered a "hero" by the population and a guarantee of stability.
Among several issues, East Timor has to solve the age-old dependence on underground energy sources - gas and oil - that although at a minimum flow constitute up to 90% of state industries. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called the nation " the most petrol dependent economy in the world." 95% of the Timorese are Catholic, but there are also small communities of Muslims and Protestants. In the past the nation has experienced long periods of critical food shortages despite the help provided by the international community (see AsiaNews, 16/10/2008, East Timorese go hungry for at least five months of the year).