GUSMÃO WINS 82.7% OF VOTE IN EAST TIMOR’S UN-RUN ELECTION
Independence leader Xanana Gusmão emerged today as the President-elect of East Timor after capturing 82.7 per cent of the vote in the last United Nations-run ballot before the territory celebrates its independence next month.
UNTAET’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced the final national result after the last of East Timor’s 13 districts completed its ballot count overnight. The vote totals were forwarded today to the IEC Board of Commissioners, which still must certify the result and submit it to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Sunday, 21 April.
“It is with enormous gratitude and humility that I received the trust that the people have put in me,” Gusmão said during a press conference attended by UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello and presidential runner-up, Legislative Assembly Vice President Francisco Xavier do Amaral.
“By the decision of the majority of our people, I am the elected President, and I become a president for the whole nation, not only those who voted for me,” Gusmão continued. “The next five years will constitute a great challenge, a serious challenge – not only for our government, but also for all civil society and all the democratic institutions of our country. It will also be a challenge for me as President. And of course, it is a challenge for all our people.”
Earlier today, Vieira de Mello, Annan’s Special Representative in East Timor, paid a courtesy call to Gusmão at his campaign headquarters. Along with a message of congratulations, Vieira de Mello invited the President-elect to meet with him and Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri tomorrow discuss the final weeks of transition from UN administration to independence, a 24 April UN Security Council meeting in New York expected to be attended by both East Timorese leaders, and preparations for Independence Celebrations that will climax in a 20 May handover ceremony.
“I want to whole-heartedly congratulate my friend Xanana Gusmão for his victory. I trust that Xanana Gusmão will devote his infinite energy and will to fulfilling the noble pledges he made during the campaign,” Vieira de Mello said in a statement. “I also want to congratulate runner-up Francisco Xavier do Amaral for his honourable campaign and for serving the people of East Timor.”
Gusmão reinforced his campaign pledges during his post-election speech, saying he would work for national reconciliation, strong international relations, investment, national development, democracy, good governance and freedom of the press.
The President-elect also pledged to work closely and constructively with the government after independence; a sentiment reciprocated by Alkatiri earlier in the day.
“If I am chosen Prime Minister of the new government, I will do all in my power to create sound relations between the presidency, parliament and government,” Alkatiri said at a press briefing.
Out of the 378,548 ballots cast in the election, Gusmão won 301,634 and Xavier do Amaral won 63,146. There were 13,768 invalid votes, giving Gusmão 82.7 per cent and Xavier do Amaral 17.3 per cent of the valid votes.
The European Union Electoral Observer Mission – the largest of 35 international observer groups – declared today that it had “full confidence” in the election result.
The ballot marked the placement of the last major democratic institution in East Timor before independence. The Legislative Assembly – popularly elected in a UN-administered ballot in 2001 – will transform itself into a National Parliament on 20 May, and the new East Timor Government will be sworn in the same day.
“This is third and last UN-organised election in east Timor,” IEC Chief Electoral Officer Carlos Valenzuela said as he announced the national results. “While these elections have been organised by the UN, they belong to the voters of East Timor … We are pleased to have had the opportunity to assist them in expressing their collective aspirations and decisions.”
RECONCILIATION COMMISSIONERS HOLD OECUSSI INTERVIEWS
Representatives of East Timor’s Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation travelled to the district enclave of Oecussi today to interview candidates for Regional Commissioner positions.
Commission Vice-Chairman Father Jovito Araújo and fellow Commissioner Jacinto Alves, a former political prisoner, will be interviewing a wide-range of candidates during their three-day stay in Oecussi.
The Regional Commissioners will be responsible for running the commission’s six proposed offices around the country and discharging the commission’s responsibilities.
These responsibilities include supporting the reintegration of less-serious offenders into their communities through community-based reconciliation mechanisms and documenting the nature of and reasons for human rights violations in East Timor between 1974 and 1999.
The seven National Commissioners assumed their positions last January and the 25-30 Regional Commissioners are expected to be selected by the end of this month.
The Commission, which is expected to run for up two-and-a-half years, will also submit a report to East Timor’s government and people recommending ways to prevent future human rights violations and address the needs of the victims of human rights violations.