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East Timor: UN official hails 'civility and peacefulness' in lead-up to elections

East Timor: UN official hails 'civility and peacefulness' in lead-up to elections

A senior United Nations official today commended the "exemplary civility and peacefulness" that have marked the campaign for the upcoming Constituent Assembly elections in East Timor.

"Through their participation in community debates, the constitutional commissions' hearings, and actually inviting various parties to present their points of view, [the East Timorese] have proved once again to the world that they are ready to be active participants in deciding what type of country they want and how it should be administered," said Carlos Valenzuela, Chief Electoral Officer for the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Speaking at a press conference in Dili, Mr. Valenzuela noted that there had been very few allegations of incidents between political parties. "I can say that in over 14 elections in which I have worked, I have never seen such a peaceful and orderly campaign," he said.

Approximately 425,000 East Timorese are eligible to vote in the ballot, which will elect an 88-member Assembly that will have 90 days to write and adopt a constitution for an independent and democratic East Timor.

Meanwhile over the weekend, the head of UNTAET, Sergio Vieira de Mello, expressed satisfaction with the announcement by East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmão that he would agree to be a candidate in a future presidential election.

"I am extremely delighted," Mr. Vieira de Mello said Saturday afternoon. "This is the right decision. It will appease and give confidence to the people of East Timor, helping to dissipate the climate of uncertainty and speculation that we have had over the past few months."

Mr. Vieira de Mello, the heads of 15 political parties and national and district independent candidates for Thursday's elections were present when Mr. Gusmão, the former head of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) and National Council President, publicly announced his decision.

"I declare here and now that I will accept to be nominated by the parties to the office of President of the Republic of East Timor, if the same parties commit themselves to accepting the outcome of the elections," Mr. Gusmão said.

"This means that each party must promote, through their structures at the grassroots level, the policy of tolerance and of mutual respect, in the democratic spirit which we are all engaged in developing," he added.