Fundasaun Mahein and ETAN International Election Observer

Fundasaun Mahein and  ETAN International Election Observer post thumbnail image

Atividade kontajen buletin votus ElPer iha sentru votasaun 10 Dezembru-Comoro


As an international observer working 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.

Campaign Period

– NPTL and UNPOL were used in the political party convoys to provide assistance, no party affiliation was shown, but they did not play a major role.
– 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 voting.
– Occasional police officer(s)or military sitting or standing within the designated 25m buffer zone of the polling station.
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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.
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It appeared to cause no real disturbance to this process and regular voting resumed shortly after.
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– Overall the police and military’s presence was seen but appeared to cause little impact in the successful running of the voting and counting proceedings.

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-este’s electoral process.

Campaign Period

– 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 were present.

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 discrimination?
– 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 have.


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.

Appendix 1

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 – 10pm)
– Bairo Dos Grilhos. Escola Xina (11am – 1pm)

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