Timorese elections run smoothly – Goff
Sun, 08 Jul 2012 3:15p.m.
The East Timorese elections appear to have run smoothly, fairly and without violence, says a veteran observer of politics in the emerging democracy, Labour MP Phil Goff.
Mr Goff is one of five New Zealand MPs who were ASEAN election observers for yesterday's elections – the country's first self-run ballot since it began its independence process in 1999.
With about half of the 645,000 votes counted today and polling at about 36 percent, incumbent prime minister Xanana Gusmao is expected to seek alliances similar to those after the 2007 elections.
The opposition Fretalin party has about 31 percent.
Mr Goff said that apart from some minor voting booth debates, it appeared the election process was free and fair, and the result could be relied on to be a fair reflection of the people's will.
However, the test would be whether the losing party accepted the result.
There was still a chance the younger, volatile and more militant elements could trigger violence, he said.
Despite that, there seemed to be a feeling the people had seen too much violence, and wanted to move forward, Mr Goff said.
It is his 10th visit to East Timor, one of the poorest countries in Asia. He was in the country in 1999 when a referendum on independence was followed by violence which killed hundreds of people, and 2006 when there was more violence.
"It's the first time I've seen pretty much normalcy prevail around the country."
New Zealand had a lot invested in East Timor, Mr Goff said.
At one stage New Zealand contributed 830 soldiers to peace keeping efforts.
New Zealand now has about 75 soldiers and 10 police officers there.
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