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Old Foes Battle it Out in East Timor Election Campaign


Two former allies turned political enemies in East Timor are battling it out for votes in Saturday's parliamentary elections. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins is in the capital Dili and brings us this report.

With only one more day left to campaign for East Timor's parliamentary elections, former President Xanana Gusmao and former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri are working tirelessly to bring in the votes for their parties. Only a few years ago, the two were comrades in the rebellion to end Indonesian rule over the country.

Mr. Alkatiri is the secretary-general of the dominant Fretilin party, which has ruled East Timor since independence in 2002. His party faces a tough challenge from Mr. Gusmao's new National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor, known as CNRT.

On Tuesday, Mr. Alkatiri accused Mr. Gusmao of being responsible for the discord in Asia's newest nation.

"Xanana Gusmao always like to have to everybody under his command or split all the people as a way to reign," he said. "Unity for him is to have everybody under his command. If he doesn't succeed to do it, he will divide everybody and try to reign."

Analysts doubt any of the 14 parties will win an outright majority in the 65-seat parliament, so a coalition government is likely to be formed. The leader of the party the builds the largest coalition will become prime minister.

Mr. Alkatiri was forced to resign as prime minister last year after he fired around a third of the army, which led to weeks of unrest.

Gun battles between rival security forces and gangs forced two-thirds of the residents of the capital Dili into refugee camps, where thousands remain.

Order was restored after the government requested an international peacekeeping force, which is still in the country.

Many here hold Fretilin responsible for last year's violence and say it has not done much to bring stability and prosperity to this impoverished nation.

At the last campaign rally for Mr. Gusmao's CNRT party Tuesday, Marcelina de Costa explains how she will vote.

She says if the CNRT wins, she is confident Mr. Gusmao will see to it that children get educated and people get jobs. She says she believes strongly in Mr. Gusmao because he wants to solve the problems of poor people.

Around half of all East Timorese are jobless, and aid organizations say 20 percent of the population needs food aid.

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