Subject: LUSA: President-elect Gusmao Pledges 'Open', Cooperative Presidency

17 Apr 02 12:21 East Timor: President-elect Gusmao Pledges 'Open', Cooperative Presidency

President-elect Xanana Gusmao promised East Timor´s people an "open presidency" and close cooperation with the government Wednesday, shortly after electoral officials formally announced his landslide victory in Sunday´s historic vote.

Acknowledging some "little differences" with the ruling Fretilin party, Gusmao said he and the government were "united in a single objective - serving the interests of our people".

He pledged to be an active president, "contributing to keeping government programs from wandering too far from aspirations" and from "the real needs of the people".

He would help the government "define priorities", he said.

Gusmao´s comments to journalists in Dili followed the formal announcement by the Independent Electoral Commission that he had garnered 82.7 percent of the more than 378,000 ballots cast in Sunday´s election.

Lusa obtained and reported the final results late Tuesday.

The vote was the final milestone before the half-island territory of 800,000 people gains independence May 20 from the UN administration that replaced Indonesian rule after a 1999 plebiscite.

Gusmao will assume the largely ceremonial presidency, with a five-year mandate, at independence.

Electoral officials said Gusmao´s only rival in the presidential race, the Constituent Assembly´s deputy speaker, Xavier do Amaral, took 17.3 percent of the ballots.

Fretilin´s senior leaders, Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri and Assembly Speaker Francisco Guterres, who both said they had cast blank ballots in the election, welcomed Gusmao´s victory, despite their public political differences.

Alkatiri, in comments to Lusa, dismissed a scenario of political "co-habitation" with Gusmao, saying he would seek "total understanding" with the newly elected president, who once led Fretilin in its struggle against Indonesian rule.

He stressed, however, that he remained opposed to the formation of a government of "national unity", as Gusmao has defended.

"Although many will not believe what I say", Alkatiri added, "I congratulate (Gusmao) with all my heart because I consider him a great winner, who always deserved to win".

The UN Security Council hailed the peaceful election as "a historic stage" in East Timor´s "notable march towards independence".

Calling Gusmao "friend" and a "marvelous partner" in the transition process, Dili´s UN administrator, Sergio Vieira de Mello, said he was confident the former guerrilla leader would make good on campaign promises to work in tandem with the Fretilin-dominated cabinet and legislature.

President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal, East Timor´s former colonial ruler, sent congratulations to Gusmao Tuesday, reiterating Lisbon´s "solemn commitment" to "remain beside the Timorese in the construction of their democratic state".

SAS/ALL -Lusa-

© 1997 Lusa Comentários e Sugestões para Agência Lusa


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