April 24 2011

To Prospective Election Observers

The Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Network has a had an enthusiastic response to the first call for Voluntary Friendship Observers for 2012. Many of you have asked that we provide some initial information about the process of elections. As there has not been much public written information we have prepared the following. When more information becomes available we will send it to you.

I am pleased to let you know that Professor Damien Kingsbury will again assist with the Observer Missions by Co-ordinating the Missions in-country.

In friendship

Rae M Kingsbury (nee Perry)
Convenor, Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Network & Friends of Baucau Inc
mobile phone: (+61) 0448 946 483
Election Notes 1:
Presidential & Parliamentary

There are two sets of elections in Timor-Leste in 2012. The dates and some of the details have not yet been finalised, due to the electoral law not yet being passed by the Timor-Leste parliament. The first round of the Presidential election is expected to be held around March, but in theory as early as late February.

If no candidate receives an outright majority, there will be a second round of elections between the two leading candidates. The second round of presidential elections should be held in between four to six weeks after the first round.
At this stage, the incumbent president, Jose Ramos-Horta, has indicated that he may not stand for re-election. While some have viewed his reluctance to re-contest the presidency as a bid to be called to re-content by public acclamation, there are also a number of legitimate reasons why he may not do so. The other likely candidates for the presidency include Fretilin’s Francisco ‘Lu-Olo’ Guterres and the Democratic Party’s Fernando ‘Lasama’ de Araujo. Candidates from other parties are also expected to contest the presidential elections, if with less likelihood of success.

The importance of the presidential elections is two-fold. In the first instance, the president has an important symbolic role in Timorese public life, being seen to be a figure of unity. The president also determines who can form government in the parliament, based on constitutional criteria. Beyond this and emergency situations, the president does not exercise executive authority in Timor-Leste.

The second importance of the presidential elections is that the vote for presidential candidates gives a reasonably clear idea of voting intentions for the forthcoming parliamentary elections. In a country that does not have public opinion polling, this is the strongest and indeed only reliable guide to parliamentary voting intentions.

As with the presidential election, no date has yet been set for the parliamentary elections. However, it is likely they will be held in June 2012.

At this stage, it is unlikely that either of the two largest parties, Fretilin and the CNRT, will command a majority in their own right and both will therefore be obliged to seek alliances with other parties in order to form a working majority in the parliament.

The security environment in Timor-Leste ahead of the 2012 elections is expected to remain stable. There has been no political violence or other widespread social unrest in Timor-Leste since 2008 and all political leaders are keen to ensure the polls are undertaken in an atmosphere of calm and order.

However, in order to ensure that calm and order prevails, and to act as a security backdrop, the UN police and the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force will remain in Timor-Leste until well after the elections. The ISF is expected to withdraw from Timor-Leste in December 2012.

Since 1999 Election Observers have previously been welcomed and well respected in Timor-Leste, for their contribution to ensuring that the electoral process is not only free and fair but is seen to be so, both domestically and internationally. Despite Timor-Leste’s difficulties in 2006, the 2012 elections mark its third round of democratic elections and are a strong indicator of democratic consolidation in this previously troubled country. Our contribution to the election process, as observers is, and is seen to be, important to its success.

I look forward to working with you in this process.

Rae Kingsbury
+61 0448946483