Subject: Age: UN rejects claims of East Timor poll fraud

The Age Monday 3 September 2001

UN rejects claims of East Timor poll fraud


Accusations of irregularities have been made in the East Timor election, with party leader Joao Carrascalao claiming that some people voted twice, that ballot boxes were not duly sealed and that the Fretilin party had intimidated voters.

The accusations are part of a long list of complaints.

Mr Carrascalao, the leader of the Timorese Democratic Union party (UDT), said the election process was sufficiently flawed as to be considered "fraudulent".

"Given the irregularities, UDT will contest the outcome," he said.

The complaints will be analysed by the UN's Independent Electoral Commission in the next few days.

Mr Carrascalao's claims contradict the opinion of most election observers, who praised the conduct of the poll, and have been rejected by United Nations administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Mr de Mello described them as alarmist and "against the spirit of the national unity pact" signed before the elections by most parties, including UDT. Signatories to the pact have agreed to respect the outcome of the vote, regardless of who wins.

Unofficial results for the country's first elected parliament are expected on Thursday. The new parliament has the task of drafting a constitution and preparing a wider round of elections.

Fretilin, which led East Timor's guerrilla resistance against the Indonesian military for 24 years, is expected to receive the most votes, but predictions as to its results vary widely.

Party leader Mari Alkatiri, who may become the country's first prime minister, has said it is guaranteed "at least 80 per cent", but local politicians across a broad spectrum predict its tally will be lower and some say it may not win a majority.

Its results will depend largely on the success of two new parties, the Social Democrat Party (PSD), led by former governor Mario Carrascalao, brother of the UDT leader, and the Democratic Party (PD), led by former student activist Fernande de Araujo.

The PSD appears to have taken over the constituency of the conservative but pro-independence UDT, which had a significant following in 1975, but it may also poach votes from former Fretilin supporters.

The UDT is expected to poll poorly, and other parties are viewing its leader's comments in that light.

Spokesmen for some other parties said they would file complaints, but that irregularities were not serious enough to question the outcome.

Mario Carrascalao said the PSD had a long list of infractions, but they were minor. Xavier do Amaral, leader of the Timorese Social Democratic Association, said his party viewed infractions it had registered as "merely technical".

East Timor's de facto foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta, thanked the international media on Saturday for bringing East Timor's plight to world attention and helping the territory win independence.

Mr Ramos Horta made the remarks at the launch in Dili of a book by John Martinkus, a freelance journalist, detailing the last years of Indonesian occupation. "I thank you for challenging the Indonesian army, police and the militias," Mr Ramos Horta said.

- with AP

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