The 2007 Presidential election is the first national election conducted by the independent state of Timor-Leste. Twelve observers from the Solidarity Observer Mission for East Timor (SOMET) visited 52 polling stations in the districts of Dili, Liquica and Ermera during the first round of voting on 9 April. SOMET finds the elections to be free and fair. We believe the results reflect the wishes of the citizens of the country.
While the majority of both polling staff and voters were familiar with voting procedures, we observed a number of minor irregularities. Infractions of the measures to prevent double voting were the most prevalent and serious technical violations.
Candidate and party agents and 'party observers' were a dominant feature of many polling stations. We observed many more agents than were legally allowed, and they often engaged in inappropriate actions and/or concealed their identities.
Polling station staff did a laudable job in making the counting process transparent. However, we noted several violations of regulations, such as sensitive materials left unguarded and improper or inefficient counting of ballots. In many cases, we also witnessed confusion about the criteria for declaring ballots invalid.
We also observed several infractions of the previously announced procedure for the deployment of police and international military forces near polling stations.
On the basis of our observations, the SOMET mission recommends improvements in eight areas.
1. Future elections should be administered by an independent agency, outside the jurisdiction of any Government ministry.
2. We recommend a clear and consistent regulatory framework for elections. Any amendments to laws, regulations, codes of conduct or training materials and instructions should be made in good time, be internally consistent and be communicated to all involved in the electoral process.
3. We recommend that provisions be made for absentee voting for hospital patients, prisoners, the home bound and Timor-Leste citizens abroad.
4. We recommend that the rights and privileges of candidate and party agents be legally regulated; that their numbers be limited to one per candidate per polling station at any one time; that polling center staff be empowered to enforce regulations relating to agents; and that the anomalous positions of 'party observer' and 'livre access' be abolished.
5. We recommend that polling stations have more and adequately paid polling staff. Further instructions and training should focus on key tasks, such as checking voters' fingers for ink, providing guidance to voters and safeguarding sensitive materials.
6. We recommend that all counting of ballots be done according to the counting regulations. Ballots should be accepted as valid if the intention of the voter is clear.
7. We recommend that police and military forces abide by transparent regulations governing their deployment.
8. We recommend that all commentators accurately represent the election process, especially after the voting.
Finally, we remind all officials involved in administering elections that international and national observers should have free access to all polling stations.
In Timor-Leste: Jill Sternberg SOMET Office HAK Association building Avenida Gov. Serpa Rosa, Farol, Dili, Timor-Leste Tel. +670-331-3324 or +670-734-2535 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
International: John M. Miller East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA Tel. +1-718-596-7668 Fax: +1-718-222-4097 email: email@example.com