|Subject: AGE: Date set for East Timor
Date set for East Timor election
By MARK DODD DILI Saturday 24 February 2001
East Timor will go to the polls on August 30 - the anniversary of its vote for independence - marking the transition of the world's newest country to a fully independent nation.
The United Nations-chaired National Council, the territory's defacto parliament, has approved a package of recommendations on East Timor's voting day, electoral system, laws governing the formation of political parties and the establishment of a national parliament and constitution.
Debate at the National Council session was described as "intensive and exhaustive" by Agio Pereira, the deputy chairman of the committee on political affairs.
Parliamentary elections will be held on August 30, the second anniversary of the UN-brokered referendum that formally ended 24 years of Indonesian occupation. This vote promises to be far less bloody.
At present East Timor is under United Nations transitional rule.
About half of its estimated 800,000 population will be eligible to vote in the elections.
Mr Pereira said other key decisions included East Timor's first indigenous electoral law. The council agreed on the formation of a democratically elected, 88-seat Constituent Assembly comprising one chamber.
Its members would include one representative from each of East Timor's 13 districts to be elected by "first past the post" ballot. Another 75 representatives would be elected on a national basis using a proportional representation system of voting.
The elected assembly will prepare and adopt a constitution within 90 days. The constitution will need to be endorsed by at least 60 members of the assembly.
No decision was made on the type of government or the election of a president. That decision will be made by parliament.
Efforts have been made to ensure women have a voice in the new parliament.
The electoral law stipulates that 30per cent of candidates proposed by political parties must be women. Mr Pereira said this should ensure women held at least 20 seats in the 88-seat assembly.
The National Council also voted on a pact of national unity to mitigate against the possibility of violence during the election campaign. While it is not a prerequisite for political parties to sign the pact, those that do not are likely to be marginalised by voters.
A national constitutional commission will be formed for public consultation on the constitution. It will be made up of members from the National Council's standing committee on political affairs, church, women and youth groups and representatives from all political parties.
East Timor's new constitution will be proclaimed on December 15 and on the same day, the Constituent Assembly will be transformed into East Timor's National Parliament.
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