Timor-Leste prepares to determine who its new leader will be as the presidential got underway on Wednesday morning. Around 600,000 voters are expected at the 705 polling stations in the country's 13 electoral districts.
According to electoral commission spokesman Martinho Gusmao, one of the two candidates, Francisco Guterres Lu Olo, former resistance fighter and current Parliament will vote in the capital, Dili, with his rival, Timor-Leste's prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta electing to cast his ballot in Baucao district, a stronghold of his Fretelin party.
272 foreign observers are on hand to ensure no rigging occurs. This election, should it be determined to have occurred fairly, would bring hope to the developing country since it stands as the first presidential and parliamentary election since Timor-Leste obtained independence from Indonesia in May 2002.
This marks a democratic resurgence in Timor-Leste after chaos engulfed the nation last April which left 23 people dead.
The sacking of 600 military figures by controversial former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri triggered resistance which spilled over to gang warfare across the new country. Australia intervened, leading a multi-national force, which brought peace to the streets of Dili.
On Tuesday, chief EU observer Jose Javier Pomes Ruis said that Timor-Leste would continue receiving international support regardless of who won the election.
"The international support to Timor-Leste does not depend on the (presidential election) winner. Timor-Leste needs to develop. It is the poorest country of the world, and all the international community must help the development of this country to solve its political and economic crisis," he said.
Ruis encouraged a strong melding of national and international support to fully reach the country's maximum economic development potential, while also pledging full EU help to Timor-Leste.
Ruis called for more international investment to help Timor-Leste's economy take flight and enter the worldwide economy market whilst also helping solving crippling domestic problems such as rampant unemployment.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called for peaceful reactions to what he hoped would be a successful election on Tuesday.
"I trust that in this second round, the turnout will be just as enthusiastic as in the first," he said." I call upon both candidates and their supporters to react to the results in a peaceful manner, and to raise any concerns they may have about the process through the appropriate legal channels."
He stressed that the United Nations would always remain on hand to help the Timorese people to accomplish development, peace and democracy..
(Xinhua News Agency May 9, 2007)