East Timor's political parties have kicked off a month of campaigning for new parliamentary elections due in May with promises to boost development in one of Asia's poorest nations.

A minority government elected last July and led by the Fretilin party collapsed in January after its policy program and budget were defeated in parliament.

On Tuesday, independence hero Xanana Gusmao, who is leading an alliance of three opposition parties, urged East Timorese to elect the grouping to "strengthen and improve our country in order to bring development to free people from poverty."

Fretilin Secretary-General Mari Alkatiri also vowed more development.

East Timor gained independence from Indonesia after a U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1999 but Indonesian military reprisals devastated its half of the island of Timor.