East Timor headed for contested presidential vote
DILI, East Timor, Feb 4 (Reuters) - East Timor looked headed for a contested presidential vote after the electoral process began on Monday with the opening of a registration period for political parties and candidate nominations.
The April 14 election will be East Timorís first presidential vote. The territory has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, when peacekeepers stepped in after pro-Jakarta militias destroyed much of the country following a referendum that saw an overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia.
That unleased violence by the militias in which some 1,000 people were estimated to have been killed and thousands more were herded across the border into Indonesian West Timor.
By midday on Monday, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials confirmed to Reuters that one candidate, Francisco Xavier do Amaral, had been nominated by the National Republican Party of East Timor (Parentil), a youth party formed in February 2001.
The nomination ended speculation over whether charismatic independence hero Xanana Gusmao would run unopposed, analysts said.
Gusmao, a reluctant candidate who has said he has no political ambitions of his own but would agree to serve if asked by the people, was expected to be nominated in the coming days.
Do Amaral is a member of the Timorese Social Democratic Association (ASDT), a party with six seats in the Constitutional Assembly.
He is fondly remembered for having briefly served as East Timorís first president in 1975 between a declaration of independence from Portugal and Indonesiaís invasion of the territory 10 days later.
Despite Do Amaralís role in East Timorís history, he is unlikely to be a major challenge to Gusmao, who enjoys broad-based support and popularity.
Registration for candidates ends February 23. The electoral campaign is to begin March 15 with elections held April 14.
The newly elected president will take office May 20, the day East Timor becomes officially independent.
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