Subject: RA: East Timor's election commission critical of poll process

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Mad monks, ghost voters and pen shortages: elections, East Timor style

ABC Radio Australia

East Timor's election commission critical of poll process

Last Updated 13/04/2007, 22:49:05

East Timor's election commission says the body charged with organising this week's election failed to conduct adequate voter education and training for officials.

While Monday's voting was mostly peaceful, it has been followed by allegations over the process and demands for a recount by some candidates.

"STAE and field officials have not been serious in carrying out their jobs," Martinho Gusmao, a spokesman for the supervisory National Election Commission (CNE), told a news conference.

STAE is the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration, the body responsible for organising Monday's elections.

"Officials at polling stations have made grave mistakes and voters did not know how to cast their ballots," he said.

Mr Gusmao said there had been cases in several districts, including in the capital Dili, where the number of voters who cast ballots did not tally with ballot papers.

"There have been many inconsistencies and CNE has to sort things out within 72 hours," he said.

Provisional tallies mean Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta and parliament chief Francisco Guterres, of the ruling Fretilin Party, will most likely contest a run-off election on May 9.

Prime Minister Dr Jose Ramos Horta, who has pointed to many flaws in the election, said the United Nations should have organised the polls.

"The word 'chaotic' is an appropriate one in view of what we know now," he said.

"I have warned many months ago the (UN) Security Council, (and) my own government, that it's best to get the United Nations to manage the election completely," he said.

Commission confirms irregularities

Earlier, the electoral commission confirmed serious irregularities in the counting of votes.

Anne Barker reports, thousands of ballot papers may have to be recounted after the commission discovered 95 ballot boxes which each hold several hundred votes.

It says the votes have either not been counted or were not added to the election data base.

Fifty-nine of the boxes come from Dili.

The commission says it will seek a court order to recount the votes, but says it has only 72 hours to fix the problem because it is due to announce the final election result on Monday.

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Telegraph (UK)

Mad monks, ghost voters and pen shortages: elections, East Timor style

By Sebastien Berger in Dili Last Updated: 1:59pm BST 13/04/2007

Take one youthful, small, impoverished and somewhat traumatised nation. Mix in an ongoing political crisis and international peacekeepers on the street.

Add an elections organisation carrying out its first nationwide poll. Simmer for two days after voting while the election commission spokesman, a priest, earns himself the nickname “the mad monk” for denying his own pronouncements almost as soon as they are made. Then release sets of numbers that do not add up.

This is the recipe for the semi-organised chaos that is East Timor’s presidential election, held last Sunday, which Fr Martinho Gusmao today said may have to be repeated in some areas.

It took 49 hours after the polls closed before Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres, candidate of the ruling Fretilin party, was announced as topping the vote, and contesting a run-off with Jose Ramos-Horta, the Nobel laureate and runner-up, next month.

“We have the surprise that Mr Lu-Olo came as the winner for the time being,” said Fr Martinho, who surprised observers before the vote by declaring his personal backing for another candidate, Fernando “Lasama” de Araujo, despite the election commission’s ostensible neutrality. advertisement

With Fretilin widely blamed for its leaders’ roles in the factional struggles dividing a once united resistance movement, Mr Ramos-Horta is expected to pick up much of the eliminated candidates’ vote in the second round. But the first round did not end there.

It appears 150,000 voters may have gone missing. Given their past, the people of East Timor are immensely proud of every opportunity they get to vote, and huge queues formed at polling stations across the country.

But while there were 522,933 names on the electoral roll, according to Fr Martinho only 357,766 valid votes were cast, 68.42 per cent of the total register. And he did not know how many invalid votes there were.

The statistic implies either an unusually high number of spoilt papers, an inexplicably low turnout, or a poorly constructed register with many multiple entries, none of which enhance the credibility of the election.

Arithmetic appears to be another issue. Five of the losing candidates are to appeal against the result in court, describing a litany of irregularities and pointing out that in some areas, including the capital Dili, the scores for each candidate did not match the total valid vote, and even Dr Ramos-Horta backed their call for a recount.

Fr Martinho admitted today that there was “inconsistency in the data”. “It is very, very difficult to resolve this situation,” he said.

“The worst hypothesis would be a re-election in some areas.”

Observers who had praised the initial, peaceful vote have been openly scathing.

“What we see is incompetence, bad training, and tiredness,” said Luis Martinez Betanzos, deputy chief observer of the EU monitoring mission for the elections.

“That’s making the numbers very messy.”

While the vote itself had been good, he rated the local counts as “bad” and the tabulation of results across the country as “very bad”.

“I have the results from my people, why do I have it and the election commission doesn’t?” he asked.

“At the very least it has been inefficient, creating confusion for themesleves, the voters, the media, everybody.”

The errors should not affect the final result, he said, but he continued: “Election administration is about perception and announcement of the results is a very important step. If you don’t tell them the result, people get nervous... they think it’s a fraud... it’s corruption... it’s all sorts of things. This is a country of rumours.

“If you are confused imagine how the voters feel.”

It would have been optimistic to expect unqualified success.

East Timor’s tortured history, occupied by Indonesia for 24 years before bloodily wrenching itself free, has left it ranking high on the global bizarreness scale.

One of the capital’s better hotels, at least in terms of internet access, is a former militia headquarters where scores of people were tortured and killed.

Quality smoked salmon bagels are available in Dili a few hundred yards from the nearest refugee camp, opposite the compound of the United Nations ­ which has spent several billion pounds in the territory.

But nonetheless it did not bode well when, early on polling day, Fr Martinho lamented a shortage of writing implements.

“The UN did not give us enough pens,” he said.

“UNDP should provide hole punchers.”

During the almost interminable count one district had to suspend operations when a key official forgot the password to his computer.

“It only allowed him two tries” before locking up, explained Fr Martinho, and a United Nations IT expert had to be sent in ­ by helicopter ­ before the tabulation could resume.

The election commission is still learning, he admitted.

“We must understand that we are not well prepared for this election and things are a bit chaotic.” On that at least, he was absolutely correct.


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