|Subject: AFP: Ramos Horta demands probe
into election 'passes'
Last Update: Tuesday, April 17, 2007. 11:13pm (AEST)
Ramos Horta demands probe into election 'passes'
East Timor Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta has demanded an investigation into revelations government officials were given access-all-area passes during this month's presidential election.
Dr Ramos Horta, a candidate in the election, said officials from his office were among those who received the passes for restricted areas while the poll was being conducted.
"The Prime Minister decided that this serious matter must be investigated in order to find out on what grounds the passes to the polling areas were issued and who requested them," a statement from his office said.
The Nobel Peace laureate added that he and his chief of staff were unaware his office had requested the passes, which are against poll regulations.
The statement raises further fears about the credibility of the April 9 poll, the first since the tiny nation gained independence in 2002, amid concerns of voting irregularities and claims of intimidation at polling stations.
Dr Ramos Horta and ruling Fretilin party candidate Fransisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres are set to contest a run-off vote in the election next month.
Neither of them gained more than 50 per cent of the vote on April 9.
The passes were revealed in local newspapers and also contained in an election report from an EU monitoring team which said 88 had been issued, describing it as an "inappropriate practice."
The passes allowed the holders access to areas run by the Technical Administrative Electoral Secretariat, where vote collecting and counting could have been taking place.
Dr Ramos Horta said an investigation was urgently needed to preserve the integrity of the election and the credibility of those who conducted it.
Although the election was peaceful with a high voter turnout, some candidates have demanded a recount over the the irregularities.
One district with 100,000 eligible voters had produced three times as many votes, a discrepancy that officials later put down to a technical error.
Election officials also said they were re-examining other votes already counted amid concerns they were not filled in properly.
Foreign peacekeepers and police were guarding polling booths on election day.
International troops have been in East Timor for nearly a year to ensure stability after gang violence in May left 37 people dead and sent 150,000 more fleeing their homes.