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Disputes Delay East Timor Vote Count

Vote counting has been slightly delayed in the East Timor parliamentary elections but the count has finally gotten under way in the capital Dili, two days after the June 30 elections. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins reports from Dili.

By Monday afternoon, more than 20 percent of the votes have been counted.

Disputes held up the process in the capital Dili, which accounts for around 20 percent of the vote. The two top parties vying for places in the 65-seat parliament wanted extra members to observe the counting process.

Maria Angelina Sarmeinto, the spokeswoman for the National Electoral Commission, known as the CNE, says party leaders wanted 10 members from each party to monitor the count, more than allowed by regulations.

After negotiations, which delayed the counting in Dili by a day, the commission agreed to allow the extra observers, but Sarmeinto says formal reprimands have been issued.

"A formal complaint was presented by party agents and the CNE responded by allowing the entrance of 10 agents per party," she said. "Despite the agreement, which can be justified by the tension surrounding these elections, the National Electoral Commission issued a formal reprimand to political parties in which it condemns their undue behavior that constitutes an electoral offense."

Although 14 parties fielded candidates, the election is mainly seen as a fight between the ruling Fretilin party and the new CNRT party of former President Xanana Gusmao.

Political analysts doubt either will win an outright majority, and say a coalition government will likely be formed.

East Timor descended into violence last year when fighting between security forces descended into arson, looting and gang violence.

Over three thousand international peacekeepers remain in the country after Dili requested their presence to stop the violence.

The European Union Election Observation Mission monitoring the vote says it has been generally peaceful.

The head of the EU delegation, Ana Gomes, says her team is confident the parties will accept the outcome of the election without resorting to violence.

"So what I have now just to say is … by stressing our confidence that the leaders of East Timor of the different parties will absolutely hear the call of the people for peaceful settlement of disputes, for dialogue, for govern[ment] of the country which will be inclusive and genuinely democratic," she said.

Preliminary results are expected later this week.