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Campaigning for East Timor's First Parliamentary Election Ends


The campaign period for East Timor's parliamentary elections has ended with relatively little violence, but tensions remain and security is tight in this volatile country. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins reports from the capital Dili.

Campaigning ended Wednesday for the 14 parties vying for seats in East Timor's parliament. The election is on Saturday.

Fretilin, the party that has dominated this tiny nation since independence in 2002, held its last rally in Dili.

At the rally, Mariana Perada, says she believes Fretilin can ease the country's poverty and instability.

She says Fretilin is the only party that can provide jobs for the people and education for the children.

Her concerns are shared by many in East Timor, where roughly half of the people are jobless.

They also are worried about security. The country was rocked by violence last year after fighting between rival security forces descended into arson, looting, and gang violence.

The bloodshed only ended after the government requested an international peacekeeping force, which remains in the country.

Fretilin's leader, former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, was forced to resign last year after he fired a third of the army, which led to the unrest.

Mr. Alkatiri says the problem is not Fretilin, but the lack of state authority. He says the police, known as the PNTL, and the army, known as the FDTL, need to be overhauled.

"You need cooperation, you need above all justice and state authority," said Mr. Alkatiri. "This state has no longer authority ... you need to rebuild PNTL, you need to restrengthen FDTL."

Saturday's election is viewed as a fight between Fretilin and the new National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor, or CNRT, led by former President Xanana Gusmao.

A supporter of the CNRT, Gaspar Soares, thinks the only way to deal with East Timor's problems is new leadership.

"We want to change the current government," he said. "That is our main objective … we support CNRT and absolutely we support Xanana, too."

None of the 14 parties is expected to win an outright majority. The party with the most seats will likely form a collation with other parties.