East Timor votes in second election in less than a year

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Voters in East Timor have cast their ballots in a second parliamentary election in less than a year after the collapse of a minority government.

Polls closed at 3:00pm (06:00 GMT) on Saturday and preliminary results may not be known until the following day.

A three-party alliance led by independence hero Xanana Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction party is vying against former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri’s Fretilin party.

Both sides in the election are promising economic development to reduce widespread poverty in East Timor.

The election was called after the Fretilin-led government, which narrowly won the July 2017 poll, collapsed when its bid to introduce a policy programme and new budget were thwarted by a hostile opposition.

The final days of campaigning were marred by violence when activists from Fretilin attacked supporters of Gusmao’s party.

But election day was “peaceful and organised”, according to Dimitar Stojkov, a poll observer.

“There has been heated rhetoric. However, that hasn’t translated to any violence of any sort. We haven’t noticed any major irregularities,” he told Al Jazeera.

Alkatiri said he expected his party to be sworn into government again.

“Fretilin will be the winning party and will lead the new government again,” he told reporters on Saturday in the capital, Dili.

Whoever wins, the incoming government will face big challenges.

East Timor’s oil and gas reserves – revenues from which pay for the bulk of government spending – are disappearing fast, and the country has few other productive economic sectors.

About 60 percent of East Timor’s population is under 25, according to the World Bank, while some 40 percent of its people live in poverty.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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