Cablegate: Counting Problems Delay Official Presidential Election
DE RUEHDT #0151/01 1061311
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161311Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3448
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0915
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 0974
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON PRIORITY 0865
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0664
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0716
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 0800
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 0517
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0110
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 2809
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DILI 000151
DEPT FOR EAP/MTS, DRL, IO
USUN RICHARD MCCURRY
TOKYO FOR HANS KLEMM
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM UN TT
SUBJECT: COUNTING PROBLEMS DELAY OFFICIAL PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
DILI 00000151 001.2 OF 002
1. (SBU) Summary: The National Electoral Commission (CNE) has
delayed the originally scheduled announcement of the provisional
national results for the April 9 presidential elections due to
multiple problems with the tabulation and documentation of
votes. According to its interpretation of the law, supported by
international legal advisors, CNE can take an additional two
days, up until the evening of April 18, to finalize its
tabulation and announce the national provisional results. It is
likely that CNE will need all the available time, if not more.
The primary problems the Commission faces are mistakes in the
completion of the district tabulation documents, including
incomplete documentation or inconsistent numbers in the reports.
Although with minor exceptions these mistakes appear to be the
product of human error rather than fraud, the existence of so
many counting problems has continued to feed suspicions of
political manipulation. This cable includes our suggested
talking points for media inquiries. End summary.
2. (U) At a press conference this afternoon, April 16, the CNE
provided an overview of the current status of national
tabulation of the results of the April 9 presidential elections.
CNE had planned to make the announcement on April 15; however,
the discovery of multiple omissions and discrepancies in the
polling center and district center tabulation led to a
significantly increased burden on CNE to complete the national
tabulation. According to the CNE spokesperson, there are
currently 42 voting stations for which CNE has incomplete
documentation. In these cases, CNE has decided to open the
corresponding ballot boxes to look for the documentation
required for completion. In addition, there are boxes from 26
stations with documentation that includes mistakes or
inconsistencies. CNE is waiting for authorization from the
Court of Appeals before reopening this latter category as it may
entail a recount of the ballots themselves.
3. (U) CNE is fully absorbed with the tabulation process and has
therefore devoted only limited work to date on adjudicating
complaints. According to the most recent data on the complaints
received, there are now a total of 141 which have been filed
nationwide, 12 of which have been decided. The most common
complaint type, of which there are 74, are poll procedure
errors. The next most common, of which there are 27, are
counting issues. Our sources continue to emphasize that there
is little evidence of fraud and that the complaints received by
CNE are not of a scale or nature to impact the national results.
Rather, they point to the tabulation delays resulting from a
combination of flawed legislation and last minute preparation.
CNE has scrupulously followed the election law, but has found
itself stymied by legal ambiguities. For example, it delayed
until late today the opening of boxes with incomplete or missing
documentation because of uncertainty regarding their legal
authority to open the boxes.
5. (U) Comment: Although the tabulation problems are real, they
appear to be solvable with enough time and effort and do not
appear to be the result of any significant fraud. Nonetheless,
the delays and constant news of new issues arising have fed
suspicions of political manipulation and could negatively impact
the credibility of the final result both in the eyes of the
general public and of the losing candidates. End comment.
6. (SBU) Recommended Talking Points:
-- The U.S. is closely monitoring the counting and tabulation of
results of the first round of East Timor's presidential
election. Though there are delays and irregularities in the
process, at this point we have no reason to suspect these delays
are due to malfeasance. There were, however, clearly a great
number of human errors in the process due in part to
insufficient training and lack of time for complete preparations.
-- The U.S. acknowledges the complications and challenges
inherent in the national tabulation process and the importance
of credibility. We note that the national tabulation has been
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conducted in a transparent manner, including regular public
communication and the ability of candidates and observers to
scrutinize the process at all stages.
-- We support the CNE in its continued work to ensure that the
process is completed correctly and within the timeframe allowed
by the law.
-- Any concerns regarding the process should be pursued through
available dispute mechanisms and legal channels for complaints.
-- We emphasize the importance of lessons learned for the next
round and parliamentary elections. In particular, it is
important to ensure early and thorough training of election
officials and laws that make clear and explicit the CNE's powers
in tabulating national results.