UN Envoy Hopes East Timor Elections Will Unify Nation

The head of the United Nations mission in East Timor says the nation's relatively peaceful parliamentary election campaign period has raised hopes that the June 30 elections will bring unity to the troubled country. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in the capital, Dili, has more.

Atul Khare, who heads the United Nations mission in East Timor, says he is encouraged that there have been only a few incidents of violence during the parliamentary election campaign, which ends Wednesday.

"I'm quite encouraged by the campaign process and I hope that the elections will result in having a restorative and unified influence so that this country can move on to address the substantive challenges that still lie ahead," he said.

In April 2006, fighting between rival security forces plunged East Timor into anarchy, nearly toppling the government.

While a U.N. peacekeeping force the government requested has kept order for most of the past year, sporadic violence has continued, and around 10,000 people still remain in makeshift refugee camps in Dili.

The independence hero and former president, Xanana Gusmao, is hoping to become the country's next prime minister if his newly formed party beats the ruling Fretilin in Saturday's elections.

Analysts say Mr. Gusmao's National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor, or CNRT, is unlikely to win an outright majority of the 65-seat house.

The CNRT and Fretilin are among 14 political parties contesting the elections.

Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta, who won last month's presidential elections, has urged the party that emerges with the biggest vote in the parliamentary contest to form a unity government to help heal deep divisions within the country.

U.N. head Khare says he hopes political leaders from the various parties will work together after the elections for the good of the nation.

"I hope that all political parties and political leaders after the election would actually implement the political accord by ensuring that those who are selected to form the government, those who are elected to be in the opposition, and a vibrant and dynamic civil society all work together to bring peace, prosperity, stability, and development to this country," said Khare.

East Timor is an impoverished nation with nearly 50 percent unemployment. It voted for independence from Indonesia's often harsh 24-year rule in 1999 but only achieved full independence in 2002 after several years under U.N. administration.