Dili, 13 April 2002


On the eve of the first-ever presidential election in East Timor, UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello expressed confidence today that the balloting process would meet exacting international standards and that East Timorese would turn out to vote in significant numbers.

Vieira de Mello, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in East Timor, stressed during a press conference that UN election staff have taken all necessary steps for a free, fair and secret ballot. He also urged East Timorese to participate in their budding democratic process by going to the polls and casting a ballot.

“I am certain that the ballot tomorrow will be free and fair,” Vieira de Mello said. “For that to happen, election preparations have been at full pace for several months.”

About 5,280 electoral staff have been trained, Independent Electoral Commission staff and UN-run TV and radio have canvassed the territory with voter education messages, more than 100 observer groups, both national and international, have registered to participate in polling day, and almost 3,000 political party/candidate agents have registered and will be witnessing all steps of the polling, and the counting, of the ballot.

The SRSG also stressed that for the first time, the East Timorese hold the majority of seats in the commission; for the first time East Timorese head all 13 district electoral offices and for the first time East Timorese will participate in the actual counting of the ballots. “This capacity building process is critical to East Timor conducting its own elections in the future.”

In response to journalists’ questions, Vieira de Mello said he believed voters would turn out in “significant” numbers. He also expressed confidence that whomever is elected president – Legislative Assembly Vice President Francisco Xavier do Amaral or independence leader Xanana Gusmão – he will work with the government of East Timor to maintain stability and develop the soon-to-be-independent nation.

Please find attached SRSG’s press conference transcript.