ELECTION CHIEF REASSURES THAT VOTE WILL BE FREE AND FAIR
The UN’s electoral chief in East Timor reassured voters and political parties today that ample safeguards have been put in place to ensure international standards are met during Sunday’s vote for East Timor’s first popularly elected President.
Carlos Valenzuela, the Chief Electoral Officer of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), stressed during a press conference that the IEC’s international and East Timorese staff will remain professional and impartial and that the 14 April ballot will be free and fair.
Concerns from several political party representatives over the transparency of the vote and potential vote fraud are unfounded, Valenzuela said.
“The IEC is very concerned about this lack of trust in the electoral process,” Valenzuela said, recalling that an IEC-run election for a Constituent Assembly in August 2001 was judged free and fair by all national and international electoral observers. “At the same time, I would like to reassure everyone that many of the issues raised by the political parties are already addressed in the IEC’s procedures.”
Besides the usual safeguards utilised in UN-organised elections around the world, the IEC has implemented several new measures aimed at increasing transparency and deterring fraud. For example, security stickers will be attached to every voter’s confirmation of registration during voting to protect against multiple voting.
Nearly 3,000 party and candidate agents have been accredited by the IEC, and more than 2,000 East Timorese and international observers have been registered, which shows a major interest in these elections. The IEC has been encouraging the political parties and independent observer groups to monitor every step of the voting and ballot-counting process.
Finally, Valenzuela encouraged “everyone to participate in this important step towards an independent and democratic East Timor.”
UN Police said today that more than 2,600 international and East Timorese police officers would be working around the clock during the final phases of the election to ensure proper security. The police effort includes guarding sensitive polling materials in the run-up to election day, guarding the polling stations during the vote, and escorting the ballot boxes to the 13 District Electoral Offices where counting will take place. UN Peacekeepers will be available to assist police. Both security forces said today there have been no signs of election-related unrest, and that no disruptions of the voting process are foreseen.
(The UNTAET Press Office will remain open and produce special Press Briefing Notes on Saturday and Sunday – 13-14 April – to provide up-to-date information on East Timor’s presidential election.)