Fretilin support down, says observer
Apr 10, 2007
http://tvnz. co.nz/view/ page/411319/ 1055612
Early counting in East Timor's presidential election suggests support for the ruling Fretilin party has dropped, an international election observer said.
Damien Kingsbury, who is helping monitor the poll in the troubled nation, said that while it was very early days, Fretilin seemed to be falling short of the party's predictions of a landslide victory.
Counting proceeded at an extremely slow pace on Tuesday. With eight candidates splitting the vote, political analysts say its highly unlikely any of them will win the required majority.
They say a second ballot next month, between the two top contenders, will almost certainly be needed to decide who will be the troubled nation's next president.
Kingsbury - from Deakin University's School of International and Political Studies - said Fretilin's Francisco Guterres "Lu Olo" appeared to be struggling.
"On the very early figures the Fretilin candidate 'Lu Olo' Guterres is struggling, but it would be too early to write him off at this stage," he cautioned on Tuesday.
"The indications certainly are that Fretilin is struggling ... that the Fretilin candidate ... is not doing nearly as well as he expected or his party expected.
"The indications are that he is almost certainly not going to get ... elected in the first round as president - that's almost completely off the cards.
"The real question will be whether he gets into the second round."
In the capital Dili - one of 13 voting districts - the National Electoral Commission (CNE) on Tuesday said preliminary estimates put Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta slightly ahead in the presidential race.
However counting is in its very early stages, he cautioned, warning against reading too much into early trends.
Ramos Horta, an independent, along with Guterres and the Democratic Party's Fernando "La Sama" de Araujo are considered the
favourites to replace independence fighter Xanana Gusmao as president.
The United Nations on Tuesday called on political parties to accept the election result when it finally comes, or to challenge it in the courts.
"In some ways the real challenge for the nation begins now - accepting results, includes accepting defeat and using the defeat as an opportunity to form a strong opposition," said the UN's special representative in East Timor Atul Khare said.
The UN congratulated the East Timorese for the absence of violence during yesterday's vote, and said the turnout had been "very high".
"Voting in the presidential elections proceeded without major incidents of violence or intimidation, which is already a very good result for these elections of Timor Leste," Khare said.
"From whatever I saw ... I sincerely believe that the attitude of the voters was positive, confident and excited."
Kingsbury said early indications showed 90% of registered voters had cast a ballot, with only minor technical issues and virtually no incidents of violence.
"The East Timorese themselves came out as they did in 1999, full of hope and expectation, they were early, they were there before
the polling stations were opened wearing their best clothes - happy and committed and I think genuinely committed to having a say in
the future of their own country," he said.
Kingsbury said it would be good for East Timor's stability if the Fretilin candidate made it to any run-off vote.
"I think in terms of political stability in East Timor it would be good for Fretilin to make it into the second round because if they were not successful it would take some of the sting out of their defeat," he said.
"But if they don't make it into the second round I think there is going to be a great deal of disappointment in the Fretilin camp."
Thousands of police, backed by Australian and New Zealand troops, remain on guard in Dili, working to prevent any outbreak of
However, the situation is expected to remain tense for months, with parliamentary elections across East Timor due to follow in