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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Historic East Timor poll 'a success'
Voters with their identity cards
There has been huge enthusiasm for the election
International observers say 93% of the electorate turned out to cast their vote on Thursday in East Timor's first free democratic elections.


People have come in freedom without violence to vote today

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta
The chief election commissioner, Carlos Valenzuela, said the poll, in which voters elected the constituent assembly which will become the country's first parliament, had been a success.

The election falls on the anniversary of the independence vote two years ago, which led to a killing spree by pro-Indonesian militias.

Voter with child
Peaceful poll: Voters felt confident enough to bring their children
During that period, Dili was a ghost town and people lived in fear; on Thursday parents brought their children to the polls.

Voters were choosing 88 members for a new assembly which will write the constitution and become the first parliament when East Timor becomes fully independent and the world's newest nation next year.

Some results from smaller constituencies could come through quite quickly but the official final result is not expected until 10 September.

UN monitors

The territory currently has an interim United Nations administration, which along with other election monitors, is working to make sure the poll is free and fair.

E Timor timeline
1600s - Portuguese invade
1749 - Timor split between Portuguese and Dutch
Aug 1975 - Portugal begins withdrawal
Nov 1975 - Fretilin declares independence after brief civil war
Dec 1975 - Indonesia invades
Aug 1999 - 78% vote for independence
Sep 1999 - 1,000 killed and many flee as anti-independence militia go on the rampage
Sep 1999 - Australian-led peacekeepers arrive
Mr Valenzuela congratulated staff at polling stations for doing an excellent job.

"The people of East Timor are following the procedures without major difficulties," he said.

A total of 425,000 East Timorese above the age of 17 were eligible to vote for any of 16 parties contesting seats in the constituency assembly.

Our correspondent in Dili, Richard Galpin, says the winning party will almost certainly be Fretilin, which led a guerrilla campaign for more than two decades against Indonesian rule.

Fretilin says it has given up its more radical policies, but there are some who believe it remains Marxist and authoritarian at heart.

Police presence

Despite predictions the political process could spark violence, our correspondent says the campaigning proved to be remarkably peaceful.

According to the police there were just 17 incidents of electoral offences reported.

East Timor vote
Voters will elect assembly members
Assembly will draw up a constitution
16 parties running
Vote for president next year
Even so, more than 2,500 police were mobilised for duty at the polling stations.

The former separatist guerrilla leader, Xanana Gusmao, is not standing in this election, but is strongly tipped to be East Timor's first president.

Last Saturday he ended months of speculation and announced he would stand for the post in the election expected early next year.

Informal results in this first poll are expected by about 5 September and official results five days later.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matt Frei in Dili, East Timor
"East Timor has now had its first free elections, without shedding a single drop of blood"
Election monitor Irena Slegt
"People are anxious that this election will result in violence"
UN chief administrator Sergio Viera Mello
"[The refugees] fears are not founded"
See also:

30 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Timor's historic vote
29 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Enthusiasm for Timor vote
27 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
East Timor's first election
24 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: East Timor
25 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Gusmao runs for Timor presidency
08 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Gusmao meets E Timor militias
30 Aug 00 | East Timor
Analysis: Gusmao's key role
29 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Gusmao quits presidential race
30 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
East Timor marks year of freedom
30 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: East Timor's 25 turbulent years
31 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Timor's legacy of trauma
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