Election campaigning heats up in East Timor
Michael Bachelard
March 8, 2012
DILI: East Timor's presidential election race is heating up with the Fretilin candidate Francisco ''Lu Olo'' Guterres accusing one of his main rivals of being a ''cat's paw'' of the government. 

The post is supposed to be above the political fray, but Mr Guterres has accused his opponent, former army commander Taur Matan Ruak, of doing the bidding of the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao.

Mr Ruak hit back with his spokesman saying the former major-general and independent candidate ''will not be played around by any leader''.
There are 12 candidates in the March 17 election, but it is likely to be won by Mr Ruak, Mr Guterres or the incumbent, Jose Ramos-Horta.

Campaigning will pause today for the state funeral of Francisco Xavier do Amaral, who was running for president from his sickbed until he died on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.

However, it was reported yesterday that witnesses were suggesting some of Mr Ruak's supporters are illegally wearing their army uniforms, perhaps in an attempt to intimidate voters.

Mr Xavier do Amaral is considered East Timor's first president after he unilaterally declared independence from Portugal in 1975 before his country was swamped nine days later by Indonesian troops.
But his spokesman yesterday categorically denied the report, suggesting people may have mistaken his official escort of military police, to which he was entitled, for campaigners.
If the election is conducted fairly and without violence, it is likely that both the United Nations contingent and Australian and New Zealand army personnel will withdraw.

His funeral should be a brief hiatus in an increasingly determined battle for the presidency of the impoverished nation. It has so far been peaceful, unlike the 2007 campaign which was marred by widespread violence.

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