Subject: East Timor to face presidential poll runoff in May

Also ABC: E Timor set for run-off election

ETimor election results confirm runoff

DILI, April 18 (AFP) -- East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta and a former guerrilla fighter will contest a runoff vote in the nation's presidential election, final results from the poll confirmed Wednesday.

The ruling Fretilin party's Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres led the vote while Nobel Peace laureate Ramos-Horta came second in the closely-fought April 9 race, the National Election Commission (CNE) said.

Because no candidate won 50 percent of the vote in the country's first presidential poll since its independence in 2002, the two leading candidates will compete in a second round on May 8.

Voter turnout was high and Timorese are hoping the election stalemate will not plunge the impoverished nation into more turmoil and bloodshed.

Foreign peacekeepers have been on the streets for nearly a year after gang violence left 37 people dead and sent 150,000 more fleeing their homes.

Confusion and irregularities with the count had threatened to undermine its credibility, and prompted some candidates to demand a recount.

The final figures show Guterres won 27.89 percent or 112,666 votes while Ramos-Horta took 21.81 percent or 88,102 votes.

Opposition Democrat Party chairman Fernando "Lasama" de Araujo was third with 19.18 percent and 77,459 votes.

The results are final pending a 24-hour window for candidates to appeal, CNE chairman Faustino Cardoso told reporters.

"We give 24 hours to the public to claim their case to the appeal court. If there are no objections after that period, CNE will verify the results to the appeal court," said Cardoso, adding that turnout was 81.79 percent.

In total there were 403,941 valid votes or 94.56 percent of the votes cast. Abstention votes were 7,723 or 1.81 percent and the number of invalid votes was 15,534 or 3.64 percent.

Eight candidates stood to replace Xanana Gusmao, a charismatic former guerrilla leader who now wants to become the country's prime minister, a more powerful position than the largely ceremonial role on president.

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News April 18, 2007 -transcripts-

E Timor set for run-off election

Anne Barker

PETER CAVE: East Timor's Electoral Commission has all but confirmed there'll be a second presidential ballot next month, between the Prime Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, and the Fretilin party candidate, Francisco Guterres.

The Commission will this evening hold a press conference in Dili with the final results for the main election last week.

Because neither candidate has won an outright majority, there'll be a run-off election on May the 9th.

Steven Wagenseil is the United Nations' Chief Electoral Officer in Dili - he spoke a short while ago to Anne Barker.

STEVEN WAGENSEIL: As I understand it, the results will confirm the news that was announced this week from the preliminary totals accumulated around the country, which is that there is to be a run-off election between the two leading candidates, that is to say, Francisco Guterres Luolo and Jose Ramos Horta.

ANNE BARKER: Why have we had to wait til now to know what we really always knew?

STEVEN WAGENSEIL: Well, the law requires, and I think good sense mandates that the returns be carefully examined to make sure they're accurate. They were done at polling stations across the country, oftimes the forms were filled out incorrectly. It's important to verify all the numbers to make sure no votes were lost.

ANNE BARKER: When you consider the many allegations that have been made about vote-rigging or manipulation, about irregularities in the count, about the number of invalid votes and so on, how accurate is the result that we're now hearing?

STEVEN WAGENSEIL: I believe that the result that you will hear today is extremely accurate. The central election commission has worked long and hard, they've been putting in 24-hour rotational shifts since last week to verify the numbers, counting... verifying the invalid votes by hand, and I believe that this is absolutely the best result, the most accurate result that can be produced.

ANNE BARKER: Where does that leave, though, the complaints from the five candidates a week or so ago, who claimed that there was widespread sort of manipulation of votes, that there was voter intimidation and so on?

STEVEN WAGENSEIL: Well, the Central Election Commission, the National Election Commission, has responded to that letter from five candidates basically saying, as I understand it, that the letter does not contain any specifics. If they have specifics, please come forward with them as to time, date, place, who was involved, and then they could be further considered and referred for prosecution. There was a similar complaint made by another candidate in recent days which has been examined by the election commission with a similar response: if they have specifics, please come forward, and they'll be examined.

ANNE BARKER: And if their complaints are later substantiated, does that open the way to challenge the election result?

STEVEN WAGENSEIL: I don't know of anything in any of the complaints that would challenge the result of the election as a whole. There may be one or two instances, perhaps more, where the results at one or two or more polling stations might be affected. But I don't believe in any way that that's enough to overturn the results, the overall results nationwide out of 704 polling stations.

ANNE BARKER: Do you believe there need to be changes in the way that the run-off election is run next month?

STEVEN WAGENSEIL: First of all, I think it'll be very difficult to implement any changes right now since the regulations and the laws have been basically adopted and its difficult to change policy in the middle of an election. There are certain things that we and the Government have learned which will certainly lead to changes before the parliamentary elections at the end of June.

The issues of the process by which votes are tabulated and recorded from the polling stations up to the national level, plus issues of how people are trained to fill out the paperwork, that sort of thing.

PETER CAVE: Steven Wagenseil, the United Nations' Chief Electoral Officer in Dili, talking to Anne Barker.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service


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