Timor-Leste successfully conducts fair and free elections
As the people of Timor-Leste went to the polls, it became clear that this island country on the edge of Southeast Asia has come a long way since achieving its independence just 10 years ago. Citizens from all over the country cast their vote for the future of their homeland on July 7 in an election cycle that was conducted freely, peacefully and fairly. "It was important for me to vote," Timorese Saturnina da Silva reportedly told the news agency Reuters, adding, "Even today, though I am so tired, this is for the future of the country." Marking the third election cycle in the country's young history, East Timorese voted to choose members of the national parliament, following a peaceful two-round presidential contest in March and April in which Taur Matan Ruak won as president. Twenty-one parties fielded candidates for the 65-seat parliament. The election commission announced earlier this week that Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão's party, the National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor (CNRT) had won 30 seats the majority of seats, 30, while the over the opposition party, Fretilin, which won 25, The Democratic Party gained eight seats and Frenti Mudança won 3 ( Two) . News of Timor-Leste's successful election cycle made its way around the world. The U.S. State Department extended its congratulations to the people of Timor-Leste. "We congratulate the people and Government of Timor-Leste on the successful conduct of peaceful parliamentary elections on July 7th. This was the second parliamentary vote since independence in 2002 and is a significant step forward in the consolidation of peace and security in Timor-Leste's young democracy. The U.S. remains committed to continued close partnership with Timor-Leste; to contribute to its future peace, stability, and prosperity; and we look forward to working with the new Timorese Government when it is named." The European Union commended the peaceful and orderly manner of the legislative elections and noted that the polls demonstrated the vitality of the country's young democracy. "The legislative elections on 7 July marked a further important milestone in Timor-Leste's impressive development in the last decade. In its short history since restoration of independence in 2002 Timor-Leste has made remarkable progress and provided an example to the international community of successful state-building," said a statement issued by the office of EU's Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also congratulated the people, government and political parties of Timor-Leste for the peaceful and orderly manner in which the elections were held. Mr. Ban commended the national authorities, particularly the electoral institutions and the police forces¬ for maintaining a stable environment throughout the electoral process. The UN Development Programme and the UN Integrated Mission provided the national electoral management bodies with advice and training in electoral planning, legal matters, information technology, public information, finance and management. A former Portuguese colony until 1975, Timor-Leste was occupied by Indonesia until Timorese voted to secede in 1999. The UN ran Timor-Leste from 1999 to 2002, the year the country was internationally recognized as independent. Earlier this year, Timor-Leste celebrated its 10th anniversary since its restoration of independence in May 2002. The United Nations peacekeepers are expected to leave Timor-Leste by the end of the year.