Subject: SMH: UN criticised for inaction in East Timor election

Also DPA: East Timor schedules second-round vote for president May 8

The Sydney Morning Herald

UN criticised for inaction in East Timor election

Lindsay Murdoch in Dili

April 13, 2007

EAST TIMOR'S Prime Minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, has lashed out at the United Nations for its "inaction" in presidential elections where all eight candidates are alleging intimidation and irregularities and up to 150,000 registered voters apparently failed to cast ballots.

Mr Ramos-Horta called on the UN to expand its role in the country before a run-off election next month between himself and Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres, of the ruling Fretilin party.

Fretilin's powerful secretary-general, Mari Alkatiri, also called for greater UN security to protect voters. "Fretilin has no fear of the United Nations playing a greater role," he said.

Mr Ramos-Horta said in Dili that even though he won enough votes to contest the run-off he could not remain silent about the conduct of the election. "What is most disconcerting, upsetting, is that common people - barefoot, illiterate, poor people - who put trust in the democratic process have been let down," he said.

Mr Ramos-Horta said the UN mission in East Timor, which includes scores of election experts and 1600 international police, ignored his repeated requests to remove Timorese police who had been accused in the past of intimidating voters.

A UN spokeswoman, Allison Cooper, said that as East Timorese authorities were responsible for the election, any complaints should be raised with them. Mr Ramos Horta also called on Australia and other neighbouring countries to send election-monitoring teams to the country for weeks before and after the run-off vote on May 8 and parliamentary elections on June 30.

The Australia Government's seven-member observer group declared the election a success from what it saw after only spending election day monitoring polling centres east of Dili, the capital.

All eight candidates have complained about the conduct of the election, the first run by East Timor since independence in 2002. The complaints include that ballot boxes brought to Dili had been opened illegally.

Mr Alkatiri told reporters that Fretilin was disappointed with Mr Guterres's failure to win a 51 per cent majority, which would have prevented a run-off.

He said that Mr Guterres was looking forward to standing against Mr Ramos-Horta "one on one". "Ramos-Horta says he is the one who is going to win but you can see he is starting to shake," he said.


East Timor schedules second-round vote for president May 8

Posted : Thu, 12 Apr 2007 08:43:01GMT

Author : DPA

Dili - The top two vote-getters in this week's presidential election in East Timor accepted the poll's validity Thursday and began preparing for a run-off ballot set for May 8. The putative winner of Monday's first-ever locally organized election with 28.77 per cent of the 357,766 votes cast was Parliament Speaker Francisco "Lu'Olo" Guterres of the ruling Fretilin Party.

Prime Minister Ramos Horta, who ran as an independent, secured 22.66 per cent. The constitution requires a run-off ballot when no candidate wins a clear majority of the total votes.

"We are not making any wild complaints about the election," former prime minister and Fretilin chief Mari Alkatiri told a press conference in the capital Dili.

Alkatiri, who made way for Ramos Horta when he lost control of the country last year, admitted the ruling party had taken a battering at the ballot box.

"The results are against our predictions," he said. Fretilin won a landslide in the 2001 general election with 57 per cent of the vote.

Analysts said Alkatiri's party was punished for its failure to deal with civil unrest in Dili last year that cost dozens of lives and resulted in the flight of 100,000 people to makeshift refugee camps.

Horta accepted the integrity of the election results in comments after the polls closed. "Despite some flaws, despite some intimidation, it can be said to be free and fair," he said.

His tepid call for a recount was seen by analysts as a bid to curry favour with the five failed candidates who demanded a recount and threatened to not accept the official results.

Ramos Horta is a close political ally of President Xanana Gusmao who is giving up the largely ceremonial role for a shot at becoming prime minister in a general election scheduled for June.

Ramos Horta appeared to hold an early advantage for the run-off ballot because he is more acceptable to supporters of the defeated candidates than Guterres. He said Monday's election had weakened Fretilin and bolstered the prestige of other parties.

"The important lesson now is that in 2001 Fretilin was not able to monopolize," Ramos Horta said. "In 2007, voters have learned not to deliver a clear majority for Fretilin."

East Timor was a Portuguese colony for 400 years until 1975, when it was invaded by Indonesia and occupied for 24 years before a 1999 UN-sponsored referendum made it an independent nation.

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