Subject: LUSA: Committee to Recommend 88-Member Parliament

East Timor: Committee to Recommend 88-Member Parliament 13 Feb-20:12

A committee of the East Timor National Council is to recommend that the territory's future parliament (to be elected in August) should have 88 members, who will prepare and approve a new national constitution and set the date for presidential elections.

The proposal for the legislature's size, among other recommendations, will be formally submitted next week to the Council by the standing committee on political, constitutional and electoral affairs.

The National Council serves as the national parliament during East Timor's transition to full independence.

"The work of the political affairs committee is done and the final draft of the recommendations should be formally submitted to the National Council. After approval they will be channeled to (chief UN transition administrator) Sergio Vieira de Mello", committee spokesman Agio Pereira told Lusa on Tuesday.

Committee members told Lusa that the long list of recommendations encompasses almost all aspects of the electoral and transition process, but make no reference to the eventual date of independence.

"There are numerous recommendations, because the idea was to cover practically the entire (transition) calendar with a phase-by- phase review", Pereira said.

"Any recommendation on independence would be irrelevant becau[s]e the final decision is up to the Constituent Assembly", he added.

The recommendations are different from those outlined in previous statements by East Timorese leaders, who had anticipated creation of a national constitutional conference.

Instead, the package calls for the creation of 13 district-level committees, to gather from citizens "opinions, ideas, proposals and recommendations" on the constitution, for subsequent presentation to the Assembly.

The recommendation notes that members will begin with no base text, and will have a maximum of 90 days to ratify the constitution.

The list allows the possibility of the Aug. 30 election date being postponed if necessary. It recommends results of the ballot be announced on Sept. 7, with members of the assembly taking office on Sept. 14. The constitution would thus only be ratified in mid- December.

Given the need to approve legislation and the December-March rainy season, presidential elections "could not be held before April" 2002, the recommendation list shown to Lusa indicates.

The proposed parliament would have 75 members elected on a proportional basis and one each for the 13 districts of East Timor.

The territory has an estimated 400,000 voters, meaning that a party would win a seat in the legislature per 5,300 votes obtained in the nation-wide vote.

"A party that gets three times that number of votes would have three seats; 10 times and it would have 10 seats, and so on", Pereira explained. Parties would thus be able to submit electoral lists of up to 75 candidates for the national seats and one candidate for each of the district seats.

JBC -Lusa

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