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Cablegate: Timor-Leste: Local Elections Free, Fair, and Almost Without

VZCZCXRO1497
RR RUEHCHI RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHDT #0283 2890523
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160523Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4576
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1337
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 4125

UNCLAS DILI 000283

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TT
SUBJECT: TIMOR-LESTE: LOCAL ELECTIONS FREE, FAIR, AND ALMOST WITHOUT
INCIDENT

1. (SBU) Summary: Despite the recent history of violence and
instability associated with Timorese elections, the October 9
elections for Suco Chiefs and Councils in 442 localities
throughout the country were conducted in an orderly fashion with
only a few minor, isolated incidents reported. International
and domestic observers judged the elections to be largely free
and fair. With the burden of managing the elections having
shifted away from the international community in favor of
Timorese authorities, the successful conduct of these elections
is an encouraging indication of the country's political
development. The Sucos lack real political power, but they are
still expected to play a significant role in forming a
grassroots network for the political parties as they prepare for
upcoming elections. Because the new Suco election laws
prohibited candidates from declaring any party affiliation, it
is difficult to judge the results, but early indications suggest
no major shift in the popularity of the national parties. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) Timorese went to the election polls on October 9 to
choose their local leaders and councils in the countries 442
localities. Despite the fact that Suco Chiefs and Suco Councils
lack real political authority in Timor-Leste, popular enthusiasm
for the democratic process remains high and voter turnout was
reported at 68 percent of eligible voters by election officials
(Note: A number of candidates ran unopposed, possibly leading to
a reduction in the overall turnout figures). Only a few minor
incidents and irregularities were reported. In one locality in
the Viqueque district, for example, the ballots were incorrectly
prepared and the election was postponed until October 15.
Police were forced to restore order when voters carrying expired
voter cards objected to being turned away at another polling
station. A National Election Commission representative was
called in to another polling station to calm tempers that flared
as a result of a close, contentious vote.

3. (SBU) The international community, and specifically the
United Nations, has shouldered much of the burden of organizing
and conducting elections in Timor-Leste since 1999. The Special
Representative of the Secretary General Atul Khare told the
Ambassador, however, that the Timorese authorities had assumed
about 60 percent of that responsibility themselves in these
elections. Similarly, another UN official remarked that while
previous elections had required the use of over 40 UN
helicopters to transport ballots and officials, the Timorese
requested the use of only 8 helicopters for these elections.
Given the complexity of organizing 442 separate ballots and
elections in even the most remote and inaccessible corners of
the country, the successful conduct of these most recent
elections is an encouraging indication of the development of
Timor-Leste's democratic institutions.

4. (SBU) The National Election Commission is currently
tabulating the voting and is expected to send its provisional
results to the Council of Appeals for approval by the end of
this week. The fact that the Suco Chiefs and Councils lack real
political authority minimizes the potential impact that these
elections results will have on the country's political
situation. Nevertheless, the Sucos will likely play a
significant role in forming a grassroots network for the
political parties that hope to contest next year's municipal
elections, as well as the 2012 parliamentary and presidential
elections. The ban on political party affiliation for Suco
election candidates makes it difficult to judge the results, but
early indications suggest no major shift in the popularity of
the national parties.

KLEMM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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