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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 June 2007, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
East Timorese vote for parliament
East Timorese men wait in line in Fatuahi Saturday, June 30, 2007
The vote passed peacefully, the UN reported
Polls have closed in East Timor in a parliamentary election dominated by promises to improve the economy and strengthen security.

The ruling Fretilin party has been challenged by a new party created by independence hero Xanana Gusmao, who recently stepped down as president.

Mr Gusmao's party is expected to do well, but no party is likely to win enough seats to avoid coalition rule.

East Timor broke away from Indonesia in 1999, gaining independence in 2002.

"The polling stations are now closed. Today's vote has been completed peacefully without any major incident," UN spokeswoman Allison Cooper said.

Peacekeeping force

The tiny nation has struggled to shake off poverty and instability.

An international peacekeeping force was deployed in East Timor last year after a feud between rival units in the fledgling army and police forces turned violent.

The violence spilled into street battles that left more than 30 people dead and forced tens of thousands of people from their homes.

About 522,000 people were registered to vote in the election to choose representatives for the 65 seats in parliament.

East Timorese men beside election graffiti
Party leaders have promised to lift East Timor's economy

Recent weeks have seen colourful election rallies in the capital, Dili, and some voters queued before dawn to cast their ballots.

"I woke up very early to take part in deciding my country's destiny," cab driver Justino da Costa told the French news agency AFP.

There are 14 parties running in the election, but the key battle is between Fretilin - which has run the country since independence - and Mr Gusmao's party, the National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor.

The Fretilin leader and former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri - who was forced to resign after last year's violence - has accused Mr Gusmao of authoritarian tendencies.

"Xanana is always looking for power," Mr Alkatiri told the Associated Press news agency on Thursday. "He has no capacity. He has no plan at all. He is trying to use his charisma."

Mr Gusmao has used his campaign to tell supporters Mr Alkatiri has already tried - and failed - to run a successful administration.

"During five years of Fretilin, Alkatiri was the big boss of a failed government," Mr Gusmao said.

UN protection

The killing of two of Mr Gusmao's supporters early on in the campaign had sparked initial fears of more violence. But the later stages of campaigning were largely peaceful, barring clashes between rival supporters in which a few people were hurt.

Saturday's poll comes a month after former Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta was elected president, also vowing to end violence in the young nation.

Mr Gusmao chose not to seek a fresh term as president - a largely ceremonial role - preferring to seek the job of prime minister.

The former Portuguese colony of East Timor broke away from 25 years of Indonesian rule in a 1999 referendum. It was placed under UN protection until it achieved independence in May 2002.


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