Subject: ABC: Unopened ballot boxes found in East Timor

Also AFP: Major problems in ETimor vote: official; Confusion mounts over ETimor polls

ABC News Online

Friday, April 13, 2007. 7:50pm (AEST)

Unopened ballot boxes found in East Timor

By Anne Barker

East Timor's Electoral Commission has confirmed serious irregularities in the counting of votes from last Monday's presidential election.

The commission says it has discovered 95 ballot boxes, holding several hundred votes each, which have either not been counted or were not added to the election data base.

Fifty-nine of the boxes come from Dili.

The commission says it will seek a court order so it can reopen the boxes to count the votes again, but it says it has only 72 hours to fix the problem.

It is due to announce the final election result on Monday.

Current counting puts the Fretilin party's candidate, Francisco Guterres or Lu Olo, in front with 29 per cent of the national vote and Jose Ramos Horta second on 22 per cent.

They are expected to contest a run-off election on May 9.

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Agence France Presse -- English

April 13, 2007 Friday 9:54 AM GMT

Major problems in ETimor vote: official

DILI, April 13 2007

Serious flaws in East Timor's presidential election may force some areas to repeat first-round voting but time to fix the problem is critically short, an election official said Friday.

The vote count is inconsistent and some polling officials have failed to carry out their duties properly, said Martinho Gusmao, a spokesman for the national election commission.

"We noted inconsistency in the data," Gusmao said after Monday's presidential vote, which ended in a stalemate with a runoff due on May 8.

In some districts the number of valid ballots did not match the tally of votes declared for the eight candidates, he said.

Officials also failed to report the count properly using the correct documentation, he said.

"It is very, very difficult to resolve this situation," he said. "The worst hypothesis would be a re-election in some areas."

The situation is "very critical" because the problems must be addressed within 72 hours, which may be impossible, he said.

There have been growing questions about the conduct of the first-round vote, the first presidential poll in East Timor since independence in 2002.

Most of the candidates who stood formally demanded a recount, even though international observers said the poll in the former Portuguese colony was generally orderly and peaceful.

The commission rejected their demand on Thursday, saying it had no legal basis to accede to the request.

A number of the candidates also raised the possibility that voters were intimidated, stoking fears of instability in the troubled state ahead of the second round.

"Most of the voters did not know what to do," Gusmao said, adding they should have been better educated about polling procedures.

Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor's current prime minister, and Francisco "Lu Olo" Guterres, the ruling Fretilin party's candidate, emerged to contest the runoff.

Final first-round results were supposed to be published on Sunday.

Foreign peacekeepers have been on the streets of East Timor, formally known as Timor-Leste, for nearly a year after gang violence left 37 people dead and sent 150,000 fleeing their homes in April and May 2006.

Violence has pulsed through the impoverished country since a bloody split from Indonesia, which occupied East Timor for 24 years up to 1999.

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Agence France Presse -- English

April 14, 2007

Confusion mounts over ETimor polls

DILI, April 14 2007

The confusion surrounding the first round of voting in East Timor's presidential election mounted Saturday when the election commission said a district with 100,000 eligible voters had produced three times as many votes.

Martinho Gusmao, spokesman for the national election commission, could not explain the discrepancy, which emerged amid growing questions about East Timor's first presidential poll since independence in 2002.

"It registered a little more than 100,000 but the result is more than 300,000," he said of Bacau, East Timor's second town.

The surplus 200,000 would represent a huge proportion of the total vote -- East Timor has just 520,000 eligible voters.

"The commissioners will discuss it together in order to find out how this illogical situation happened in Bacau."

Gusmao refused to say whether the new discovery could invalidate the provisional results, in which Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor's current prime minister, and Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres, the ruling Fretilin party's candidate, emerged to contest the run-off.

The commission said Friday that serious flaws in the election could force some areas to repeat first-round voting.

Most of the candidates who stood formally demanded a recount, even though international observers said the poll in the former Portuguese colony was generally orderly and peaceful.

The commission rejected their demand on Thursday, saying there was no legal basis on which to grant the request.

A number of the candidates also raised the possibility that voters were intimidated, stoking fears of instability in the troubled state ahead of the second round.


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