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Cablegate: After Slow Start, Parliament Rushes Through Election Law

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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0764
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UNCLAS DILI 000604

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS
PACOM FOR POLAD AND JOC
NSC FOR HOLLY MORROW
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM UN TT
SUBJECT: AFTER SLOW START, PARLIAMENT RUSHES THROUGH ELECTION LAW

REF: DILI 600

1. The National Parliament in a press release issued late
yesterday announced passage of the draft parliamentary election
law drafted by the ruling Fretilin party. In contrast to last
week's deliberations (reftel) which addressed the first 16
articles one at a time, the remainder of the legislation was
voted on in chapters instead, allowing the quick passage of 61
additional articles with little discussion among the Members of
Parliament present. The final document was then approved as a
whole with 49 votes in favor, none against, and one abstention.
This reflects an absence of 38 MPs out of the 88 member
legislature. Many of these were opposition representatives,
including those of the largest opposition party, the Democratic
Party (PD), who have boycotted all electoral law deliberations,
declaring the draft unconstitutional. Eight MPs from small
opposition parties were present, however. It will now be
returned to committee for editing in preparation to be sent to
President Xanana Gusmao for signature.

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2. Discussions on the law had commenced on December 11 and the
initial article-by-article review had resulted in some
compromises departing from the original draft. However, the
absence of many opposition MPs in the deliberations already
undermined prospects for a consensus law to emerge. The rushed
manner in which the remainder of the law was approved,
reportedly with only a few minor changes, may further call into
question the law's fairness.

3. Post will report on the substance of the law septel once the
text becomes available.

GRAY

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