Subject: AFP: Campaigning kicks off for ETimor election

Agence France Presse

May 29, 2007

Campaigning kicks off for ETimor election

DILI, May 29 2007

Campaigning officially started Tuesday for East Timor's crucial election next month to decide the troubled nation's parliament and next prime minister.

Most of the 14 parties contesting the June 30 poll have submitted their campaign schedules to the National Election Commission (CNE), an official said.

"As of this day, all parties can now campaign and present their programmes to the people," said CNE commissioner Joana Maria Dulce Vitor.

The election is expected to be a tough contest between the new party of former president Xanana Gusmao and Fretilin, which has dominated parliament since East Timor officially gained its independence in 2002 from Indonesia.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta won this month's election for president in a landslide against Fretilin, which analysts said showed impoverished voters were disillusioned with the former resistance movement.

Ramos-Horta is expected during the campaign to lend his support to close ally Gusmao who is seeking the powerful post of prime minister.

The campaign comes as Ramos-Horta signed off on changes to vote counting at the upcoming poll.

Counting will be conducted at district headquarters in a change pushed by Fretilin to reduce, it says, chances of intimidation of officials and manipulation of ballots.

"The count will be done at the 13 districts, no longer at the polling stations where voting is done," Ramos-Horta said.

The amendment to the electoral law was passed in parliament and despite reservations from the president. Ramos-Horta said he was concerned that the amendment was not supported by other parties.

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