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East Timor's first election 'glowing example'

East Timor's first election 'glowing example' to world community: Annan

30 August – Under a calm and peaceful atmosphere, hundreds of thousands of East Timorese headed to the polls on Thursday to vote in the territory's first democratic elections, which Secretary-General Kofi Annan called "a glowing example to the world community."

By the time polls closed Thursday evening, an estimated 93 percent of the more than 400,000 registered voters had posted their ballots.

"I congratulate you on the success of today's Constituent Assembly elections," Mr. Annan said in a statement. "I commend the spirit of peace, maturity and tolerance shown by each and every one of you and by all political parties - both throughout the campaign period and at the polls. It provides a glowing example to the world community."

The Secretary-General said that over the past two years, the unique determination of the East Timorese had been the catalyst for all the support that the United Nations and the world community have given East Timor "in reviving lives and livelihoods and in re-establishing the institutions of government."

Mr. Annan pledged the UN's support to East Timor in the months ahead, as the tiny territory embarks upon the "complex, second phase in the establishment of government institutions and an economic structure that are sustainable well into the future."

Thousands of voters had lined up in the dark this morning waiting for polling stations to open while others had slept outside polling stations or had travelled long and difficult terrain to reach them.

Cabinet Minister for Foreign Affairs José Ramos-Horta cast his vote in the capital, Dili, early this morning and then accompanied the UN's chief administrator in East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, to Bobonaro, Covalima and Ainaro Districts to visit polling stations. East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmão voted in his home district of Manatuto before travelling with Mr. Vieira de Mello's deputy, Dennis McNamara, to Viqueque and Baucau Districts.

This afternoon Mr. Vieira de Mello visited a polling centre in the capital at which he commended the East Timorese for the dignity and maturity exhibited throughout the electoral process. In a radio broadcast aired throughout the day, he had encouraged voters to head to the polls and to respect the election's eventual outcome.

"When the results of today's election are announced, some people will feel happy because they believe that they may have won, while others may feel disappointed because they did not manage as well," Mr. Vieira de Mello said. "This is normal in any democratic election. But remember…it is the people of East Timor, and not political parties, that will be the winners of today's elections."

After the close of polling, all ballot boxes were taken unopened to counting centres in each district capital, where they will be stored securely overnight. The process of counting the ballots will begin on Friday, and final certified results will be handed over to Mr. Vieira de Mello on 10 September.


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