Subject: AU: In Baucau, democracy's dividends are slow to arrive

- Australian: In Baucau, democracy's dividends are slow to arrive

- Old Foes Battle it Out in East Timor Election Campaign

The Australian

Thursday, June 28, 2007

In Baucau, democracy's dividends are slow to arrive

Stephen Fitzpatrick, Baucau, East Timor

JUST over a year ago, Terezinha Ximenes was scratching a comfortable enough living selling vegetables in a Dili market.

Her husband Marcelino da Silva took carpentry and bricklaying work around the East Timorese capital when he could.

Now the couple squeeze together with their eight children in a straw hut on a cold, windy hilltop outside Baucau, about 130km east of Dili. They're waiting for the late rains to end so their dirt floor will stop turning to mud at every downpour.

Parliamentary elections to be held on Saturday come a poor second to wanting a new tarpaulin over their draughty shack to keep out the weather, as well as food in their bellies and clothing for the children, aged between two and 18.

"If you ask us what we think about voting, that's really crazy," said Ms Ximenes, 36, to the delighted hoots of a gaggle of women in the camp at Triloca, housing about 100 people.

"When we left Dili, we took nothing, and we still have nothing. We're hungry. We don't really care about the election -- we just care about making our lives better."

Nonetheless, the camp dwellers know the value of a stable government, so on Saturday they will head for their nearest polling station -- about 90 minutes away by foot -- to take part in East Timor's "festival of democracy".

For about 522,000 voters, it will be the third time to the polls in as many months after a two-round presidential election that put former prime minister Jose Ramos Horta into the top job.

Now the man Horta replaced, former guerilla leader Xanana Gusmao, is trying to complete the quinella by ousting the ruling Fretilin party from government with his own CNRT party, an opportunistic throwback name that recalls the umbrella group responsible for leading East Timor to independence in 2002.

Other contenders will be minor players but will still have the keys to a future government: Fretilin is expected to have a sharp reduction in its hold on the parliament, where it has 55 of 88 seats.

Which of the two parties takes power is most likely to be a function of which has the best deals with independents and small-party candidates.

"Of course the election is important for the future of the nation, and we're all enrolled to vote," said the Triloca camp coordinator, 51-year-old Gilberto da Costa Alves.

"We just haven't had anything to do with the campaigning."

East Timor has anywhere up to 100,000 internally displaced people who fled the fighting in Dili last year and who remain too frightened to return home.

UN humanitarian affairs officer Kulmiye Mohamed says getting displaced people to return is not the end of the story. "Unless you also stabilise the situation on their return, the cycle is only likely to recur."


Voice of America (VOA) June 26, 2007

Old Foes Battle it Out in East Timor Election Campaign

Dili, East Timor -- Two former allies turned political enemies in East Timor are battling it out for votes in Saturday's parliamentary elections. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins is in the capital Dili and brings us this report.

With only one more day left to campaign for East Timor's parliamentary elections, former President Xanana Gusmao and former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri are working tirelessly to bring in the votes for their parties. Only a few years ago, the two were comrades in the rebellion to end Indonesian rule over the country.

Mr. Alkatiri is the secretary-general of the dominant Fretilin party, which has ruled East Timor since independence in 2002. His party faces a tough challenge from Mr. Gusmao's new National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor, known as CNRT.

On Tuesday, Mr. Alkatiri accused Mr. Gusmao of being responsible for the discord in Asia's newest nation.

"Xanana Gusmao always like to have to everybody under his command or split all the people as a way to reign," he said. "Unity for him is to have everybody under his command. If he doesn't succeed to do it, he will divide everybody and try to reign."

Analysts doubt any of the 14 parties will win an outright majority in the 65-seat parliament, so a coalition government is likely to be formed. The leader of the party the builds the largest coalition will become prime minister.

Mr. Alkatiri was forced to resign as prime minister last year after he fired around a third of the army, which led to weeks of unrest.

Gun battles between rival security forces and gangs forced two-thirds of the residents of the capital Dili into refugee camps, where thousands remain.

Order was restored after the government requested an international peacekeeping force, which is still in the country.

Many here hold Fretilin responsible for last year's violence and say it has not done much to bring stability and prosperity to this impoverished nation.

At the last campaign rally for Mr. Gusmao's CNRT party Tuesday, Marcelina de Costa explains how she will vote.

She says if the CNRT wins, she is confident Mr. Gusmao will see to it that children get educated and people get jobs. She says she believes strongly in Mr. Gusmao because he wants to solve the problems of poor people.

Around half of all East Timorese are jobless, and aid organizations say 20 percent of the population needs food aid.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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