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The Carter Center Praises Preparations for East Timor's First Presidential Elections and Urges Voters to Cast Their Ballots

ATLANTA...The Carter Center today praised East Timor's Independent Election Commission for its impressive preparations for Sunday's presidential elections and reassured citizens that their vote will be held in secret.

Carter Center observers were deployed March 1 to monitor the pre-electoral environment leading to the territory's first presidential elections. They have visited 12 of the 13 districts in East Timor and have met with political parties, domestic observers, and members of community and nongovernmental groups, and today's report details their observations.

"People appear vocal, ready, and willing to vote for their first President," the report said. A peaceful, high level of participation in the election is anticipated.

Voter education programs organized by the Independent Election Commission have been highly successful, instilling confidence in the voting electorate. In addition, most of the Election Commission officials in the districts will be of Timorese nationality, and more than 1,800 domestic observers have registered with the Commission and are expected to monitor voting.

Carter Center observers noted concern among East Timorese about the relationship between the new President and the government. Under the new constitution, the President is granted only limited powers; therefore his influence will be dependent upon his popularity with the electorate.

After the presidential elections, East Timor is expected to reach full independence in May 2002. The Carter Center has worked in Indonesia and East Timor since 1999, observing Indonesia's parliamentary elections in 1999 and the 1999 vote for independence for East Timor, in which the Center issued weekly reports on acts of violence and intimidation by pro-integration militia, supported by Indonesia military and police that threatened to compromise the integrity of the vote. The Carter Center observed a peaceful election in East Timor in August 2001.

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