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Cablegate: Primer On April 9 Presidential Elections in East Timor

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PP RUEHPB
DE RUEHDT #0131/01 0891055
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301055Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3415
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0895
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 0954
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON PRIORITY 0845
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0651
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0696
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 0780
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 0500
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0090
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 2774

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DILI 000131

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS, DRL, IO
USUN RICHARD MCCURRY
TOKYO FOR HANS KLEMM
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM UN TT
SUBJECT: PRIMER ON APRIL 9 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN EAST TIMOR

DILI 00000131 001.2 OF 003


1. (U) Summary: On April 9 Timorese citizens are scheduled to go
to the polls to select from eight candidates who they want to
serve as their next president, replacing the iconic Xanana
Gusmao. Most observers believe that the election will go to a
run off, as the winner must win by a margin of over 50 percent.
If this is the case, the law requires that the runoff occur 30
days after, on May 9. The presidency is a largely ceremonial
post, but this election is viewed as an important indicator of
the relative strengths of different parties and is thus expected
to set the stage for parliamentary elections. The President has
announced that he will formally declare the date for the
parliamentary election after the April 9 poll, but in the
meantime an informal agreement has been reached between the
President and the ruling FRETILIN party that the date will be
toward the end of June. This will be the first national poll in
East Timor that is run by sovereign Timorese electoral bodies,
although the UN has been providing significant support. This
cable provides an overview of basic election arrangements
including: registered voter numbers; polling station
arrangements; observers; security arrangements; result
tabulation and announcements; complaints mechanisms; and
electoral bodies. End summary.

The voters
-----------

2. (U) The updating of voter registration opened on January 29
and ended March 23, having registered 112,000 new voters. The
total number of registered voters now stands at 507,000.
Registration will reopen between the presidential and
parliamentary elections, on dates to be determined. Embassy is
researching the demographics of the new registrations (i.e., how
many first-time voters, how many newly eligible since 2002,
etc.) and will report septel.

Polling station arrangements
-----------------------------

3. (U) Voters may cast their vote in any polling center or
polling station nationwide. There are 504 polling centers, one
per each suco (village). Some polling centers have more than
one station in order to accommodate larger sucos or large
numbers of voters. There are a total of 706 polling stations.
(Note: This is a slightly different number than previously
reported, but reflects the most up-to-date information.) At
least 70 polling stations are inaccessible by road, and of these
40 will require delivery and pickup of election materials by
helicopter and 25-26 will require delivery on foot or horseback.
Half the stations in the enclave of Oecusse fall into one of
these categories. Each polling station will be staffed by five
electoral officers, selected from among local voters and trained
by the State Technical Administration for Elections (STAE).
These include: one president, one identification verification
officer, one ballot paper controller, one ballot box controller,
and one queue controller. In addition, National Electoral
Commission (CNE) will have a central presence in each of the 13
districts comprising one commissioner, four focal points, and
three UN volunteers.

Observers
---------

4. (U) The Coalition for Monitoring General Elections (KOMEG), a
coalition of 17 national NGOs supported by the USAID-funded
National Democratic Institute (NDI), will field 1308 domestic
observers, covering all polling centers and stations. Apart
from KOMEG, as of March 24, there are 633 national observers
from 35 organizations. There are 21 international organizations
and embassies registered to observe the presidential elections,
including the U.S. mission. Each candidate is allowed to have
two agents observing at each polling station; however, most
candidates are not attempting to cover a wide number of
locations, and none have requested observer training for their
agents. (On this aspect, parties are reportedly more focused on
preparing to field large numbers of agents for the parliamentary

DILI 00000131 002.2 OF 003


elections.)

Security Arrangements
---------------------

5. (SBU) The UN Police (UNPOL) and Timorese police (PNTL) have
assessed the risk at each polling center, identifying three
levels of risk. Three UNPOL and three armed PNTL will guard the
highest risk sites, such as the largest polling centers in Dili.
High risk centers outside of Dili will have three UNPOL and two
armed PNTL. Other centers will either be covered by two UNPOL
and two PNTL or three to four armed PNTL. In addition, UNPOL
will be coordinating mobile patrols. In Dili, 22 patrol cars
will provide security for 11 sectors, each with three to five
polling centers. Outside of Dili, one car manned by two UNPOL
and one PNTL officer will patrol each sector of two to five
centers. The formed police units (Malaysian, Portuguese and
Bangladeshi) will provide district back-up in case of
emergencies, such as violence at a polling station, while the
International Stabilization Force (ISF) will also be on call.
There is no anticipated role for the East Timorese armed forces
(F-FDTL).

Announcement of results
-----------------------

6. (U) According to the election law's provisions on counting,
tabulation, and verification of the results, the final outcome
of the election must be announced no later than April 19. The
deadline for the CNE's completion and posting of provisional
national results will be April 14, five days following the
elections. The deadline for the Court to validate the results
is four days later if no appeals are lodged vis-`-vis the
preliminary results and five days later if any appeals are
lodged. The tabulation and verification process includes the
following stages: 1) initial counting at polling stations by
election officials in the presence of the public and observers
with result posted at the center; 2) district tabulation by STAE
officials and selected polling station officials with CNE
supervision and in the presence of candidate delegates,
observers, and media; 3) national tabulation by the CNE which
will then post the provisional results; and 4) final
verification of the results by the Court of Appeals.

Complaint and dispute mechanisms
--------------------------------

7. (U) Voters and candidate agents can file complaints or
protests during and after the polling. There is no clear
deadline in the law for voters or candidate agents submitting
complaints regarding electoral operations. Initial complaints
are to be submitted to the electoral officials at the polling
station who can make an immediate decision if approved by at
least three of the officials present; the officials may consult
STAE in making their decisions. Voters and candidate agents can
also address their complaints to CNE through the polling
stations. There are no formal provisions for bypassing the
polling station officials, for example if the complaint is
against them, but CNE officials have relayed to Emboffs that
they will accept complaints that come through different
channels, for example if brought directly to their district
offices.

8. (U) Appeals or disputes concerning the election results can
be made at the provisional result stage based on CNE's posting.
The law requires that any such motion be submitted to the Court
of Appeal within 24 hours of the posting of the provisional
results. In turn, the Court must render its final decision on
all such motions within 24 hours of receipt. (Note: The UN's
independent Electoral Certification Team (UNECT) has in all its
reports raised concerns about the time limits imposed for both
the lodging of an appeal against the provisional tabulation
results and the time given to the Court of Appeals to consider
the appeal. UNECT notes that a longer time should be provided
to allow challengers a "reasonable opportunity to gather the

DILI 00000131 003.2 OF 003


information needed to support a challenge, brief legal counsel,
and prepare documentation." Moreover, the Court needs
sufficient time to "consider all challenges lodged, hear
arguments~, assess the relevant facts and applicable law, and
provide fully justified judgments." End note.)

Electoral Bodies
----------------

9. (SBU) The main electoral bodies are the CNE and the STAE.
CNE is an independent supervisory body, mandated to monitor all
aspects of the electoral process. Observers, such as UNECT,
note that it has performed well as a genuinely independent body,
but has had trouble establishing itself due to the late
promulgation of the legislation establishing it and limited
access to resources for its operations. CNE has an allocation
in the state budget of USD 176,000 which must be allocated
across three elections if the presidential election goes to a
run-off. STAE is responsible for all election logistics,
including registration, ballot preparation, and polling station
staffing and set up. STAE is a government body reporting to the
Minister of State Administration. This arrangement has led to
many criticisms that STAE lacks sufficient independence,
especially as the current Minister, Ana Pessoa, is a leading
ruling FRETILIN party member. UNECT has nevertheless evaluated
STAE as basically sound in its work, but the Minister has at
times shown an inclination to intervene on key decisions and the
STAE director clearly sees himself as reporting to her. STAE
has an allocation in the state budget of USD 1,661,000. The
Court of Appeals serves as the final arbiter of all decisions
made by the electoral bodies, and certifies the final results.
NAGY

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