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DILI -- Voting began Saturday in Timor Leste's parliamentary elections, a test for this half-island nation that will determine whether United Nations peacekeepers can leave as planned by the end of this year.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. (2200 GMT Friday) and voting will continue until 3 p.m., with some 645,000 registered voters eligible to cast their ballots.
There are concerns that violence will reignite in the energy-rich but underdeveloped state if, as predicted, none of the 21 parties wins a parliamentary majority and a fragile coalition takes power.
After presidential polls were held peacefully over two rounds in March and April, the UN sees Saturday's elections as the last big test that will decide whether its remaining 1,300 peacekeepers and other security staff can withdraw as planned within six months.
The left-wing Fretilin party, which became synonymous with the pro-independence struggle, has a populist platform for spending the oil money to lift income and education levels.
The center-left National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction is promoting longer-term investment on major infrastructure projects such as roads, electricity and water.
The two major parties will go head-to-head in the polls, with CNRT President Xanana Gusmao, a charismatic war hero, fighting to stay on as prime minister.
The vote and its aftermath will decide whether East Timor, which celebrated a decade of formal independence from Indonesia in May, is ready to take on its own security.
The United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor -- with a total current military, police and civilian force of about 3,000 -- was deployed in 2006, after a political crisis in which dozens were killed and tens of thousands displaced, with a mandate to restore security.