Fundasaun Mahein’s Observations during the 2023 Local Elections

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Photo : STAE 2023

This report discusses the results of Fundasaun Mahein’s (FM) monitoring during the recent elections for local community leadership positions for the period 2023-2030. The first round of the election was held on 28 October 2023, with the second round being held on 13 November, covering 442 sukus throughout the territory of Timor-Leste. FM received credentials from the Technical Secretariat for the Administration of Elections (STAE) to conduct monitoring during the election period. FM conducted monitoring in several municipalities, including Baucau, Bobonaro, Covalima, Dili and Viqueque.

FM’s monitoring detected the following difficulties and irregularities during the local elections:

Voting outside scheduled hours – FM observed that in several voting centres, voters continued to cast votes until late at night. This occurred due to the lack of presence of STAE officials and the subsequent failure to ensure that the election was conducted according to established procedures.

Citizens unable to vote – this occurred due to the long distances between some communities and voting centres, which prevented many citizens from participating in the local elections. For example, in suku Topo/Memo, Maliana, much of the local population were unable to vote because their homes were too far from the voting centre.

Inadequate presence of security officials – FM noted that there were few PNTL officers present at voting centres. In addition, in some conflict-affected areas, tensions erupted between supporters of different electoral candidates, but PNTL officers were more focused on securing sensitive election materials than responding to the conflict.

No electoral register – STAE officials accepted voters’ electoral cards and then wrote their names by hand on the voter list. This process caused significant delays in the voting process, with the result that many citizens were forced to continue voting late into the night, including in suku Bahu, Baucau municipality, and in suku Comoro, Dili municipality.

Inadequate voting booths and ballot boxes – essential election materials were not adequately supplied, so that only one voting booth was available was available in many voting centres. Similarly, a single ballot box was available, meaning that votes for suku chief, aldeia chief and delegates were mixed together in one box, rather than collected separately. There were also inadequate pens, pins available for marking ballots, so that some voters were forced to tear their ballots in an attempt to mark them, as occurred in suku Bahu in Baucau town.

Voting centres were not accessible to people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups – in several voting centres, such as in suku Bairo Pité, Dili, FM noted that that the facilities were not accessible for people with disabilities, elderly people or pregnant women, which made it difficult for many people to cast their votes.

Duplicated electoral cards – FM observed that some citizens possessed more than one electoral card and could vote multiple times. STAE officials did not detect this due to the lack of voter lists and insufficient ink for marking fingers after votes were cast.

Inadequate STAE officials – due to reduced presence of STAE officials, they were unable to adequately monitor ballot boxes, and as a result some voters attempted to tamper with ballot boxes by inserting their hands.

Tied election result – FM noted that in the second round of the aldeia chief election in Viqueque municipality, the election was tied, with the two candidates receiving the same number of votes. Authorities discussed the results but were unable to reach a resolution; the final result was that one candidate was simply awarded the position of aldeia chief, meaning that they were not elected based on the number of votes received.

Violence during the local elections – in Uatulari administrative post and Viqueque town, FM registered violent incidents municipality between supporters of different candidates for suku chief. In addition, the house of an elected suku chief was set on fire by supporters of the losing candidate following the second round of the election.

Influence from martial arts groups ­– FM also noted conflict between martial arts group members during the local elections. Some candidates mobilised martial arts groups to pressure communities to vote for them.

In conclusion, FM observed that STAE and PNTL officials faced various difficulties during the local elections, and also that several serious irregularities occurred. Despite these problems, FM sees that the election for community leadership positions in 442 sukus was largely successful. FM provides the following recommendations to strengthen the implementation of the next local election:

  1. The Government through the Ministry of State Administration and STAE must modernise the local election system, including ensuring provision of necessary equipment to all voting centre and providing adequate training to election officials to ensure adequate understanding of electoral processes and procedures.
  2. More security officials must be present at voting centres, particularly those identified as potential conflict risk areas, in order to guarantee election security, prevent violence and monitor attempts at voter intimidation.
  3. Voting centres and voting equipment must be made accessible for people with disabilities, elderly people, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups or people with limited mobility.
  4. The lack of voter register led to significant delays and allowed people to vote multiple times. To guarantee that the next local elections run smoothly and without irregularities, STAE must resolve this issue.

For more information about this issue, please contact:

Fundasaun Mahein


Mobile: (+670) 75771766


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