Subject: LUSA: National Council Approves Election Law, Rejects Quotas for Women

East Timor: National Council Approves Election Law, Rejects Quotas for Women 13 Mar-19:44

East Timor's National Council (transition legislature) approved Tuesday the territory's draft election law, but rejected a controversial article concerning compulsory quotas for the number of women candidates.

Rejection of article 38 also removed from the document the only reference to UN support for East Timorese political parties, and went against the position taken by the Council last February, when it approved by majority vote recommendations to include the quotas.

During previous sessions leading up to the Tuesday vote, Council members had twice demanded the appearance of Peter Galbraith, the transition administration's minister for political affairs. They criticized his stance against the quotas, alleging that the UN should respect the Council's position on the matter.

The quota article was nevertheless rejected on Tuesday, with some Council members voting against a measure they had supported during debate last February.

The vice president of the National Council, the Social Democrat Milena Pires, said Tuesday's vote was a political defeat.

Council members "will have to accept the consequences of this omission in electoral law and work harder to guarantee the participation of women", Pires said.

Independence leader Xanana Gusmao told Lusa after the Tuesday Council session that he "understood" some members` concerns about the issue, but rejected suggestions that there had been an attempt to manipulate members.

"This is only a question of the principle of involving women in this political process. We debated here and all agreed to recommend 30 percent", he said.

Another Council members, Agio Pereira, told Lusa the Tuesday debate was evidence of "East Timorese-style democracy".

"I don't know if the members who voted against knew what they were doing. In the end the vote was registered according to the National Council regulations and has to be accepted", Pereira said.

He criticized the fact that in rejecting the quotas, Council members had also rejected "important parts" of the same article, a "major contradi[c]tion" he said "worries me".

The document approved Tuesday confirms that East Timorese will elect an 88-seat Constituent Assembly, with 75 awarded according to a nationwide vote and one each for each of the territory's 13 districts.

The Assembly will be given 90 days to debate and approve a constitution for the territory.

The regulation also calls for establishment of an international election commission with two East Timorese and three foreign members, with a mandate to organize and conduct the electoral process.

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