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Media Release

Solidarity Observer Mission for East Timor (SOMET)

HAK Association building Avenida Gov. Serpa Rosa, Farol, Dili, Timor-Leste

Contact:

Dili: Jill Sternberg or Ruby Rose Lora, +670-331-3324 or +670-734-2535; email: somet@etan.org
International:
John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668; +1-917-690-4391; john@etan.org

SOMET CONGRATULATES THE PEOPLE OF TIMOR-LESTE ON FIRST NATIONAL ELECTION

For Immediate Release: 10 April 2007

Timor-Leste’s voters went to the polls on 9 April 2007 to elect their next President. The Solidarity Observer Mission for East Timor (SOMET) dispatched twelve accredited, nonpartisan observers to 52 polling stations in Dili, Liquiça and Ermera districts to observe the voting and tabulation process.

East Timorese votes on April 9, 2007.  
East Timorese voting on April 9.
Steven Wagenseil/Electoral/UNMIT

SOMET was initiated by the international solidarity movement for Timor-Leste, and is a coalition including organizations in the United States, Asia and the Netherlands. In cooperation with Timorese non-governmental organizations, SOMET observers from eight countries came to Timor-Leste to support the people of this new democracy in their right to choose their next President.

SOMET congratulates the people of Timor-Leste for overcoming obstacles and inexperience to carry out their first national election largely without violence or bias to reflect the will of the voters. Nearly all polling center workers we observed performed ably, impartially and conscientiously. Voters were patient and committed, and nearly all knew how to participate in this free and fair democratic election. Our preliminary analysis indicates that the process generally went as intended, notwithstanding some minor irregularities and problems. Given recent turbulence which shook the confidence of many Timorese in their governmental processes, this is a significant accomplishment.

Timor-Leste will have more elections, and SOMET will issue a report later this week highlighting areas that can be improved. Some of the most important are:

• SOMET observers witnessed many polling stations where political party and candidate agents seemed too numerous, or appeared to try to influence voters or intervene in the electoral process. Polling Center staff often had trouble dissuading agents from engaging in inappropriate actions.

• In some polling centers, closing and counting processes deviated from the regulations, and there seemed to be unclear standards or training about procedures and when to invalidate a ballot. Ballot counting often went into the night, especially in centers with multiple polling stations. Many centers had no lighting, and the lanterns provided for the election were not bright enough for observers and candidate agents to verify ballots.

• Measures to guard against double-voting were often not followed, especially checking a voter’s hands for ink before allowing them to vote, although SOMET did not witness anyone trying to vote more than once.

• Predicted violence by Timorese voters or partisans did not occur, due to the responsible behavior of the population. International and Timorese police generally performed well, although SOMET observed some instances of inappropriate deployment of police and international soldiers.

The Solidarity Observer Mission for East Timor (SOMET), a non-partisan observer mission for the elections, was formed at the invitation of some civil society organizations in Timor-Leste to work in partnership with nonpartisan Timorese and other international observers to support an election process which is transparent, free and fair. SOMET will observe the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. We will report on the entire process -- paying special attention to voter education, campaigning, vote casting and counting, and implementation of the results.

More information can be found online at see http://etan.org/etan/obproject/default.htm

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see also Report of the Solidarity Observer Mission for East Timor (SOMET) on the first round of the Timor-Leste 2007 Presidential Elections (April 18)

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