Can Police and Military Personnel Vote in the Elections?

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Fundasaun Mahein 31 January 2011

Press Release

Can Police and Military Personnel Vote in the Elections?

In Mahein’s Voice no 29, Fundasaun Mahein debates on whether the Police and the Military should have the right to vote in the elections. The general election in Timor Leste is a sovereign process that is undertaken by the people. In accordance with the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste this process is direct, free, just and secretive.

This report by Fundasaun Mahein (FM) focuses on views held by public opinion, pro and cons, as to the right to vote by members of FALINTIL-Forsa Defesa Timor Leste (F-FDTL) and Members of Polisia Nasional Timor Leste (PNTL) in a general election. It is the view of FM that it is important that members of PNTL and F-FDTL, that take part in the general election, must distinguish his or her role as a citizen and as a member of the armed forces. Unless this distinction between civil and military function can be understood, the very democratic process of general elections can be put in danger. As such, FM recommends that better conditions be created for members of PNTL/F-FDTL before they can be given the right to vote in accordance with the Constitution.

According to research carried out by FM there are serious contradictions within the law. Some laws prohibit members of the police and the military to vote in an election whilst under other laws this very right is provided as a right of a citizen of the nation. Another issue of concern to FM is the independence of members of PNTL and F-FDTL that provide close protection security to VIPs and presidents of political parties. Given that these individuals have close relations with these VIPs and presidents of political parties, their independence and neutrality, as members of PNTL or F-FDTL, is no longer guaranteed due to the influence of the individuals they are protecting.

Another issue of concern to FM is that there have been occasions when members of the Military and Police, whilst in complete uniform, openly registers and declares his or her support to a particular party. This is a clear demonstration that this right to vote has a psychological effect, which in turn, facilitates a sense of ownership of political parties by members of PNTL and F-FDTL.

Accordingly FM makes the following recommendations:

1. Both PNTL and F-FDTL institutions should increase civic education in their respective academy.

2. Both the Government and PNTL/F-FDTL institutions improve the conditions of both PNTL/F-FDTL so that members of these institutions could properly exercise their right to vote.

3.The Government and Parliamentary Committee B should draft a law that would allow members of PNTL and F-FDTL to vote one day ahead of the general election so that both institutions can properly carry out their duty during the general election.

4. PNTL and F-FDTL should not politicize their respective institutions.

5. Political leaders should not attempt to recruit members or leaders of PNTL and/or F-FDTL

6. As security and defence institutions both PNTL and F-FDTL must maintain their professionalism in order to secure the general election with neutrality and impartiality.

For further information please contact

Nelson Belo,
Director of Fundasaun Mahein
Tlp +670 737 4222

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