East Timor-Election

Last Updated 08/04/2007, 18:36:20

Police in East Timor have arrested more than 200 people in the lead up to tomorrow's election for a new president.

Anne Barker reports, political leaders have appealed for calm as voters head to the polls.

Dozens of people have been injured in the past two weeks in fighting and other skirmishes connected to the main political parties.

Virtually all 8 presidential candidates have accused rival groups of intimidation or violence in the leadup to the poll.

Police have arrested at least 200 people - although many have been released soon after.

More than five thousand police and international soldiers will be posted around the country tomorrow to protect the vote from violence.

Authorities have banned voters from carrying weapons in or near polling stations.

Police to 'blanket' E Timor violence

April 8, 2007

Authorities in East Timor are preparing to throw a "security blanket" over the tiny nation, as more than half a million locals head to the polls on Monday to select a new president.

Virtually every police officer in the country, local and international, will be on duty in a bid to calm the situation and prevent a repeat of the occasional violence and intimidation that marred the otherwise colourful two-week election campaign period.

Dozens of people were injured, and hundreds arrested, when rival political supporters clashed sporadically during the campaign.

"I hope, with this security blanket, the election will (proceed) peacefully," United Nations Police deputy commissioner Hermanprit Singh said.

There are eight candidates vying to replace charismatic independence fighter Xanana Gusmao in the largely ceremonial job.

"I believe people will behave very well," said Gusmao, who is not standing for re-election, but is expected to contest national parliamentary elections later this year.

"My hope is that the process can be very democratic and very fair."

Gusmao was speaking as Timorese authorities held a ceremony for the official distribution of the ballot papers across Dili's six sub-districts on Sunday.

Across the remote and mountainous nation, 90 horses, 400 porters, four helicopters and a series of vehicles were on Sunday distributing 600,000 papers to more than 500 polling centres and 700 polling stations ahead of Monday's vote.

Monday's poll is the first to be organised, conducted and supervised by East Timor authorities, and the first presidential poll since it gained independence from Indonesia in 2002.

More than 2,200 local and international observers have gathered to witness the vote.

But it is unlikely any of the three frontrunners - major party Fretilin's Franciso Guterres "Lu Olo", current Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta or Democratic Party candidate Fernando "La Sama" de Araujo - will get the majority needed to win.

A run-off poll between the top two contenders is likely next month.

Deputy Commissioner Singh said thousands of police would patrol polling areas "to ensure there are no post-poll clashes between the rival supporters or to minimise such clashes if they were to happen".

He added there was a large number of gang leaders and gang members in custody on other matters who otherwise may have created problems during the poll.

Dili was quiet on Sunday as thousands attended church for Easter Sunday mass.

A letter from East Timor's two bishops to their congregations urged citizens to make a careful choice based on the competency of the candidates to run the country, their honesty and integrity, and their commitment to rebuilding the shattered nation.

"The church places important value on democracy, because democracy provides the opportunity for the nation to elect its own leader," the letter said.

"You should not give your hand to those leaders who only fight for their interests and their ideology to be in power."

© 2007 AAP

JOURNAL: Politics in East Timor

David Axe has an excellent series that can provide you a taste for the chaos in East Timor that Australian troops have been sent to quell. Vignettes include low-tech mechanized warfare:

Around here, bikers mean trouble. After all, who rides motorcycles? That’s right: young guys with too much free time and too much energy. The bikers are headed past my hostel and towards the other end of the street, so I follow. At a roundabout they converge, yell at each other some then scatter again. I’m starting to get a feel for what’s happening. This is mechanized political violence. Both sides have armies of dudes on bikes itching to fight. Only the U.N. is keeping them apart.


Last year, a former Timorese police officer, Major Alfredo Reinado, gathered a 600-strong army of disaffected policemen to challenge the government, which was carefully planning for a critical presidential election scheduled for April 9. In recent weeks, Reinado’s force has raided government facilities and stolen weapons.

and hired gang-banger guerrillas (2):

There are $2-a-day thugs, many of them recruited by the political parties from the city’s refugee camps, roaming the streets, looking for something, anything, to kill.


1 comment:

Ana said...

Tight security for Timor vote

April 9, 2007 - 9:25AM
UN police from Pakistan guard ballot boxes ahead of East Timo'rs Presidential elections today.

UN police from Pakistan guard ballot boxes ahead of East Timo'rs Presidential elections today.
Photo: AP

Polling opened this morning in an election to replace independence fighter Xanana Gusmao as president of troubled East Timor.

"The vote is now open," said Carlos Barbosa, head of a polling station, in Meti Aut, a district of the capital, Dili.

Polls opened at 7am (8am AEST) and were to close at 4pm local time.

Voting was taking place under tight security and amid concerns over whether the result will be credible in a contest seen as a three-way fight.

At Meti Aut there was no tension as about 30 people lined up to cast their ballots under a bright early-morning sky at the simple polling station with a desk and yellow plastic tape that marked the area for people to wait.

"I am happy to vote for our future. It's an important moment," said Francisca Freitas, 38.

About a dozen United Nations police officers from New Zealand, Nepal and Portugal stood by.

"I am very happy to give support to our nation which is already broken," said another voter, Armindo Moreira.

Current Prime Minister and Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, 57, is up against the Fretilin party's chairman Francisco Guterres, 52, a former guerrilla popularly known as Lu-Olo, for the role of president.

Fretilin, which led the country's independence struggle against Indonesian occupation, holds a majority in parliament.

A third candidate, Fernando "Lasama" de Araujo, the chairman of the opposition Democratic Party, also stands a chance of winning, said Damien Kingsbury of Australia's Deakin University.

Five other candidates are seeking the five-year term as president after Gusmao declared he would not seek re-election.

Instead, he said he would join a new political party and seek to become prime minister, prompting Fretilin to allege he is trying to "facilitate a job swap" with his close associate Ramos-Horta.

Prime minister is a much more powerful post than the largely ceremonial position of president.

If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent, the run-off will be held on May 9.

Gusmao led the guerrilla resistance against Indonesia, which occupied the former Portuguese colony for 24 years until a United Nations-supervised vote which led to a bloody separation from Indonesia in 1999.

More than 522,000 people are registered to vote at more than 700 polling stations secured by more than 4000 international and East Timorese police.

The police are backed up by about 1000 troops from an Australian-led international peacekeeping force dispatched to quell deadly unrest last year.

Helicopters, porters and horses were used to deliver ballots to remote areas in the mountainous nation, whose infrastructure is poor.

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer today played down concerns about possible voter intimidation at polling booths, saying he did not think such threats would affect the election result.

But he acknowledged tensions could flare if some activists refused to accept the election outcome.

"There is a risk that some people in different political parties will be unhappy with the result to the extent that they might go out on the street," he said.

Mr Downer said Australian troops would remain in East Timor at least until June or July, when parliamentary elections could increase tensions in the country.

An Australian delegation led by Northern Territory Country Liberal MP David Tollner is in East Timor to observe the elections.