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Timor Leste Parliamentary Election

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Part III: With the two-day ‘silence election campaign’ coming into effect, the
Timorese are ready to cast their votes for a better future. The
election will definitely be a ‘litmus test’ for political leaders to
ensure peace and security for the impoverished country. FORUM-ASIA
wishes Timor Leste good luck and a luta continua…

Part III: On Saturday 30 June, 520,000 eligible Timorese will cast their votes at 504 polling centres in all 13 districts and 442 sucos (hamlets) between 7am and 4pm. They will cast their vote for a party or coalition of parties among the fifteen1 that are running. Both incumbent candidates and new faces will try to alter the political dynamics of the country after a series of boisterous demands from its population of 1 million. The new parliament will have a minimum of 52 or maximum of 65 seats, instead of the 88 in the current parliament. Parties that receive 3% or more of the votes will gain a seat in proportion to their national vote, making it harder for smaller parties to be elected. Each party or coalition has nominated 65 candidates and no less than 25 alternate candidates, with at least one woman per group of four candidates.

Since January this year, Alola Foundation, Rede Feto (Women's Network), UNIFEM, UNMIT and Irish Aid have developed a campaign program to encourage women's participation in the Timor-Leste 2007 elections. In April, local foundations released a statement encouraging women to pro-actively participate in the elections and called on all political parties to outline their programmes that promote women’s and children’s rights, introduce laws against domestic violence, create more employment and develop opportunities for both women and men to resolve the current political crisis. Most recently, the women’s group coalition held a two-day forum for women candidates. All candidates agreed to sign a declaration of their commitment to work for women’s rights into the future.

On 25 March, following the signing of the “Code of Conduct”, leaders of all the registered parties/coalitions jointly signed a “Political Party Accord” that seeks their commitment to provide constructive and inclusive democratic processes for the new government and opposition. The Code of Conduct requires all parties/coalitions, their candidates, their representatives and supporters, to accept the result or to challenge them in competent courts as well as to campaign positively through programs of action.

Here is the brief introduction of individual groups in materialising the election:

STAE – Secretariado Tecnico de Administracao Eleitoral (Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration)

Working directly under the Ministry of State Administration, STAE is responsible for organising the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. It is in charge of the administration, organisation and execution of the electoral processes and the consultation and support in electoral substance before, during and after the elections. STAE reports goes directly to CNE and UNDP for verification and double checking.

In terms of electoral preparation, STAE introduced a schemed where each polling station has a unique code composed of three categories of figures. The first two identify the District ranging from 01 to 13; the second ones are made with three figures in order to identify the polling centre; and the third one is composed of two figures for the identification of polling stations. At each polling centre, STAE will appoint one person, henceforth referred to as “brigadista” to be in charge of the support and provision of technical assistance to electoral officers at the polling stations as well as at district tabulation centres.

CNE – Comissao Nacional de Eleicoes (National Election Commission)

As an independent body, CNE supervises the conduct of elections on the ground with cooperation from UN agencies and foreign observers. It is in charge of monitoring the election process before, during, and after the election takes place. Made up of 15 members who are not affiliated with any political parties or electoral candidates, Martinho da Silva Gusmao, the spokesperson for the body, openly supported Democratic Party candidate, Fernando Lasama de Aroujo during the first round of the Presidential election and refused to take back his word, causing a dispute among party candidates who viewed it as bias. CNE also provides training on electoral mechanism to their members, party representatives who need to make a written statement.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Responding to a request by the Government of Timor Leste, UNDP established a program of Support to the Timorese Electoral Cycle, fully funded by international donors as part of its nation-building campaign. US$10 million was injected for Capacity Building and Voter Education mainly through STAE and CNE. It also provides technical assistance for some of the participants – candidates, political parties, the media, national and international observers.

United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor Leste (UNMIT)

Established and replacing UNMISET, the UNMIT mission was extended in February for an additional year as the road to recovery in Timor Leste is in need of supervision, especially in the security sector. UNMIT is responsible for providing advisory and logistical support to STAE and CNE for the elections but it is not responsible for administrating the elections. Security Council agreed in Resolution 1704 that the UN should “provide accurate and objective information to the Timorese people, particularly regarding the forth coming elections” and “provide resources and assistance to the preparation for the 2007 elections”.

Independent Electoral Certification Team (IECT)

Appointed directly by UN Secretary-General, the high level electoral expert’s task is to verify and audit each phase of the electoral process before, during and after each campaign. The members of the team include Lucinda Almeida from Portugal, Reginald Austin from Zimbabwe and Michael Maley from Australia. They work independently from UNMIT and will submit their findings and recommendations to the Secretary-General and the Timor Leste authorities. Reports will then be made available to the public.

1 Please refer to Part 2: Political Parties of Timor Leste released on 20th June 2006.