ETAN Observes with Fundasuan Mahein
As an international observer working with the East Timor and
Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) I have had the unique
opportunity to observe the campaign period and election day with
ETAN’s friends at
Mahein (FM). FM is a local NGO working in Timor providing
monitoring and analysis of the security sector. Their focus was on
the role that the police (PNTL and UNPOL) and the military had
throughout the campaign period and on election day.
This whole experience has reminded me of the important
role of civil society groups, like FM, play in keeping the political parties
and government to account. They will play a fundamental role in the next
five years in Timor-Leste.
Working alongside the Timorese people was an enriching experience
that I do not think many other election observer missions provided.
Leading up to election day, I was provided with extensive background
to the country, its challenges, the political parties running for
power and current issues around the security sector. I had the
opportunity to attend a variety of events throughout the campaign
period, independently and with FM staff. The whole time I was
mentally doing a comparison about how the Timorese ran elections
compared to the process in Australia, my home country.
Observing the campaign, I noted one major difference between the two
countries and the campaign styles. Political Party Rallies! This
is my ‘what to bring list’ to a political party campaign rally in
The party that you support's flag. Now it doesn’t matter
what size it is, but the bigger, the better and if you have
multiple even better.
A truck, a method of transportation needed for you, your
family (including children), your neighbour, your neighbour’s
Spray paint, balloons, streamers, more flags and anything
else that can be waved around while on the truck or put on your
A marching band or very loud stereo system for the truck
to blast out party song.
A party song, one that is catchy and will stay in your
head even days after the rallies.
A large public area where you can hold your rally or
party meetings where the leaders of the party can come and speak
for a few hours about how good their party is, how bad the other
parties are and if they have time some explanation of their
Media coverage of your campaign.
Timor-Leste election workers prepare to count
the votes. (Tonilia de Fatima dos Santos/La'o Hamutuk)
However, the campaign was not all political party rallies, sometimes
policy was spoken about and debated amongst the parties and with
civil society groups, including FM.
This whole experience has reminded me of the important role of civil
society groups, like FM, play in keeping the political parties and
government to account. They will play a fundamental role in the next
five years in Timor-Leste, with the support and encouragement from
ETAN members, as the country faces further challenges around
economic sovereignty, post UN withdrawal and addressing the issues
around the security sector. FM’s role for the next government term
should continue to be one of analysis, critique and monitoring of
all government policy and how it relates to the security sector.
Having worked in FM for only a couple of weeks during the election
period, I am encouraged to see how a locally run NGO is concerned so
deeply about the future of their country and actively engaged in
Fundasaun Mahein and ETAN International
Election Observer Report
With the East Timor and Indonesia Action
Network (ETAN) we have had the unique opportunity to observe the
campaign period and election day with
Fundasaun Mahein (FM). FM's
focus of the election was the security sector and the role that the
police (PNTL and UNPOL) and the military had throughout the campaign
period and on election day. we also made further observations around
the political process and the role that civil society has in the
political process in Timor-Leste.This is a summary of my
observations made during this period.
1) Security Sector
The 2012 Parliamentary elections ran smoothly without any major
incidents reported. These are my observations about the security
sector during the campaign and on Election Day.
- NPTL and UNPOL were used in the political party convoys to provide
assistance, no party affiliation was shown, but they did not play a
At the FRETILIN political rally, and other rallies attended, there
was not a strong police presence and no perceived threat of
interference from other political parties.
Due to major language barriers we were unsure and could not conclude
what each parties position and policies about the role of the
security sector would be. However, we did have the opportunity of
attending the Press Conference from FM where they presented a report
with a collection of political parties responses to these question.
Election Day (7 July 2012)
- Small level of police and security presence visible at the voting
stations but not enough to be deterrence for voters to be put off
Occasional police officer(s) or military sitting or standing within
the designated 25m buffer zone of the polling station. This
observation has been noted as well by staff at FM.
With the arrival of the Police Commissioner, Komisariu Longuinhos
Monteiro, at the Becora polling station this resulted in an
entourage of uniformed and armed officers going into one of the
polling stations where he placed his vote. It appeared to cause no
real disturbance to this process and regular voting resumed shortly
Overall the police and military’s presence was seen but appeared to
cause little impact in the successful running of the voting and
2) Role of the Civil Society
Civil Society within Democratic countries plays an import role with
transparency and keeping the government, and other political
parties, to account. During election campaigning and the electoral
process is when the importance of civil society is realised. These
are my observations about the civil society and their involvement
with the Timor-Leste’s electoral process.
- Many civil society groups actively participated in talking,
interviewing and questioning each political party about their key
campaign policy platforms. we attended a public debate of one
particular party aimed towards fielding questions and concerns from
NGO groups. Many representatives asked challenging questions to the
members present. Disappointed to learn that other parties did not do
this. Where are the forums that people can learn more about what
political parties stand for?
- Civil society groups actively participating in the democratic
process through regular meetings with political party delegates
about their positions.
During the regular meeting of the Civil Society Forum, different
groups were allowed the opportunity to express their concerns and
share their observations about the election process, outline the
focus of their observations and hear from other groups. This is an
important forum that is needed to be nurtured for the future of
civil society in Timor-Leste.
Election Day (Saturday 7 July)
- Large number (2000) of national observers. Good interaction and
engagement of the political process from civil society. Observers
from STAT, CNE and other local NGOs.
High level of observers, both national and international resulted in
clear and transparent election process.
National observers were present in the voting stations, voting
venues and counting. Taking many notes and talking to others that
Further general observations.
- Even though political parties were not allowed to continue with
campaigning and hand out political fliers on election day, the
presence of the Fretilin observers in their distinguishable red
shirts close to the polling stations and the presence of a CNRT
sticker on a door close to the polling station.
Election staff assisted people with a disability and at times police
officers in and through the election process but where given a green
shirt to wear through the whole process. Is it a form of
Women and the elderly were given priority when lining up for voting.
Electoral staff appeared well trained and capable of carrying out
their duties in a professional manner.
The process of using the ink to identify who has voted, as explained
to me it not in the regulations, is an infringement on the right to
remain anonymous in the voting process. In Timor-Leste, it is a
choice of the individual to vote or not but insisting people, after
voting, put their finger into the ink can potentially create
discrimination against people who have not voted or for those who
The role of Civil society groups, like FM, are crucial in keeping
the political parties and government to account and will play a
fundamental role in the next five years in Timor-Leste as it faces
further challenges around economic sovereignty, post UN withdrawal
and addressing the issues around the security sector. FM’s role for
the next government term should continue to be one of analysis,
critique and monitoring of all government policy and how it relates
to the security sector. In December, Australian/New Zealand Forces
and UNPOL leave Timor and it will be the role of PNTL and the
military to maintain peace and security in Timor and the role of FM
to monitor their movements and government policies. Having worked in
FM for only
a couple of weeks during the election period, we encouraged to see a
locally run NGO concerned so deeply about the future of their
country and actively engaged in civil society.
Events attended during the Campaign Period
- PUN Public Debate (Tuesday 26 June)
- UNMIT Civil Society meeting (Tuesday 26 June)
- PDN rally (Monday 2 July)
- Fretilin rally (Tuesday 3 July)
- CNRT rally (Sunday 1 July)
- Public debate (Wednesday 4 July)
- Lao Hamutuk Timor-Leste briefing. (Wednesday 27 June)
- ETAN Briefing for International Observers. (Saturday 30 June)
- STAT International Observer Briefing (Wednesday 4 July)
Polling Stations I observed on Election Day (Saturday 7 July)
- Bemori. Escola Doque di Caixas (7am 9am)
- Becora. Escola Sagrado Coracao de Jesus (9am 11am and 2pm
- Bairo Dos Grilhos. Escola Xina (11am 1pm)
ETAN Volunteers Observe Timor-Leste
Parliamentary Election 2012 (observations and reflections)
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