East Timor voted on Saturday in a parliamentary election in which Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao’s party faces a stiff challenge from two opponents as it seeks to extend its term at the helm of Asia’s newest and one of its poorest nations. Gusmao told reporters he was confident his National Council of Timorese Resistance party (CNRT) would win 44 of 65 parliamentary seats on its platform of seeking foreign loans for infrastructure projects and expanding the amount of an oil fund used for the state budget beyond its current limit of 3 percent. Gusmao, a guerrilla leader in the fight to end Indonesian rule, became the first president after independence in 2002. The main opposition Fretilin party, also a key player in the fight to secure independence, opposes foreign loans and wants to maintain the percentage of the $10.5 billion petroleum fund used for the budget at current levels.
Peace and stability are also key concerns for over 600,000 eligible voters in a country that saw factional violence in 2006 as well as in the period leading up to independence. “I have given my vote and I hope my vote will not fall to the ground and go to waste, that what the parties have promised us, such as to open more jobs and create peace, will be realised,” Floriano da Silva, a student, told Reuters. Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portuguese colony occupying half an island at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, in 1975.
Full Article: East Timor votes in parliamentary election | Reuters.