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As presidential election campaign kicks off in East Timor, UN predicts peaceful vote

As presidential election campaign kicks off in East Timor, UN predicts peaceful vote

Sergio Vieira de Mello
East Timor today kicked off the territory’s first-ever presidential election campaign, with the head of the United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET) predicting that the process will be as peaceful, and the turn out as large, as the balloting for last year’s Constituent Assembly.

“I am certain, once more, that the Timorese people will prove that they are more than mature, that they will continue to display as much tolerance and responsibility during the electoral campaign, as well as on election day, and that they will turn out in large numbers on the 14th of April to elect their first president,” Sergio Vieira de Mello told a press conference in Dili.

“I have absolutely no reason to believe that there will be any form of violence in the weeks ahead of us,” he added. “There were many doubts, there were many sceptics in 2001, there were people predicting blood in the streets of Dili and other urban centres. Nothing of the sort happened. We were right and those prophets of doom were wrong.”

Late Thursday, the Independent Electoral Commission issued an official notification indicating that the ballots will not include political party symbols, an issue that had been at the centre of a “mini-crisis,” as described by Mr. Vieira de Mello. “I welcome that decision, as I have been telling both presidential candidates that they did not need political party symbols,” he said. “Their names, their past, their records, were more than enough in the eyes of the Timorese population.”

During his press conference, Mr. Vieira de Mello also explained the current downsizing of UNTAET in anticipation of East Timor’s independence on 20 May, stressing that the smaller UN presence did not mean the world body was abandoning the territory altogether, as some had feared.

“The United Nations will maintain a significant presence in East Timor and carry on with its unfinished business in a number of areas alongside the independent institutions of the Government of East Timor, which we have helped put in place,” Mr. Vieira de Mello said.