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East Timor's first presidential elections scheduled for April, UN says

East Timor's first presidential elections scheduled for April, UN says

East Timor's first presidential elections will be held on 14 April, one month before the territory declares its independence, the United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET) announced today in Dili.

The elections follow the 30 August 2001 balloting in which the East Timorese elected a Constituent Assembly now in the process of writing the territory's first constitution. East Timor is scheduled to declare its independence on 20 May.

"The transfer of power from the United Nations to the East Timorese has one precondition apart from the adoption of the Constitution of this country - and that is the election of a president," UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello said at a press briefing.

Late last night, Mr. Vieira de Mello signed a new electoral law paving the way for the election. According to the regulation, the people of East Timor will elect - through universal, adult suffrage and secret ballot - their first President for an independent and democratic East Timor, having powers conferred on that office by the Constitution.

Mr. Vieira de Mello also announced that the electoral campaign would start on 15 March and finish on 12 April. The final results will be announced on 17 April and certified by the Electoral Commissioners on 21 April.

There will be five Electoral Commissioners, three East Timorese and two international members. These will arrive in East Timor in early February.

Twenty-six international electoral experts from 19 countries arrived in Dili earlier this week as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), UNTAET's electoral authority, began preparing its operations to organize the April presidential election.

"This time, the Timorese will be taking a predominant role in preparing and holding these elections," Mr. Vieira de Mello said.

District Electoral offices, run entirely by East Timorese staff, have been working since the Constituent Assembly elections in August 2001 to train local electoral officers for the next election.