Subject: East Timor To Hold First Presidential Election April 14: UN

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

E Timor To Hold First Presidential Election April 14 - UN

DILI, East Timor, Jan. 16 (AP) -- In a final step toward nationhood, East Timor will hold its first presidential election on April 14, the territory's U.N. administrator announced Thursday.

Speaking a day after the adoption in East Timor's legislature of a new electoral law, Sergio Vieira de Mello said all 16 political parties are expected to field candidates. Results of the presidential ballot will be announced on April 17.

De Mello said that there will be only one round of voting in the presidential election and that independent candidates will be allowed to stand if they manage to collect 5,000 signatures endorsing their candidacy.

Independence leader Jose "Xanana" Gusmao is widely expected to win and become East Timor's first head of state when it gains full independence on May 20. Until then, the U.N. is administering the territory.

East Timor's first brief experience with independence after 350 years of Portuguese rule, ended in December 1975 when Indonesia invaded the half-island territory of 600,000 people.

Indonesia's brutal occupation was never recognized by the world community and in 1999, after the ouster of former dictator Suharto, the U.N. organized a referendum on the province's future.

An overwhelming majority of voters opted for independence, triggering a month-long rampage by Indonesian troops and their militia proxies in which hundreds of civilians were killed and 80% of East Timor's housing and infrastructure destroyed.

The bloodshed ended with the arrival of international peacekeepers in October 1999.

The territory has been under U.N. administration ever since. In August, parliamentary elections for an 88-member constituent assembly went off peacefully. The body will become East Timor's first parliament once it passes the national charter.

The U.N. had hoped the constitution could be written before Jan. 25, when the U.N. Security Council meets to review progress.

However, lawmakers said on Tuesday they could be delayed in drafting the document after several U.S. Congress members advised the nation to take more time in properly drafting the supreme law.

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