UN IEC: Election Day Statements by Chief Electoral Officer
United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor
Office of the Chief Electoral Officer
Statement of the Chief Electoral Officer
7:00pm, 30 August 2001
Closing of the polls
30 August 2001 will be remembered in the history of East Timor as a demonstration of the capacity of the East Timorese people to organize themselves, to participate, and to confront their differences in the context of a multiparty democracy. It will also be remembered as a peaceful election, and this will help reassure the East Timorese people that they can exercise their democratic rights without fear.
Given the long lines at some polling centers at 4pm, the IECís district coordinators reiterated the instructions contained in the polling procedures to allow those waiting to vote to do so. At this point, there are a number of polling centers still handling voters; estimates are that polling may finish in some centers as late as 7:45 this evening.
I would like to clarify that we did not change our procedures, and we did not change the closing time for polling centers. We did ask our polling center officials to be as flexible as possible in allowing people to vote, but those who had no line at the 4pm official closing time were permitted to close their polling centers and to seal their ballot boxes. Once the boxes were sealed, we could not authorize polling center officials to reopen them.
Questions have arisen regarding whether individuals whose polling centers had closed at 4pm in the absence of waiting voters could vote at a center that had a long line and was thus still handling voters. Unfortunately, polling centers are not able to handle voters who are assigned to other polling centers.
We have received one report so far of an official complaint lodged during the day. The complaint, involving an allegation of undue influence on the part of one of the polling officials, is being investigated.
We have received the reports of the district
coordinators, and from an operational point of view we can say that the
elections were a general success. Minor difficulties such as missing keys,
malfunctioning equipment, and restive crowds were solved during the day.
We also can say that Election Day was a peaceful day. People experienced the polling like a holiday and no violent incidents were reported. CIVPOL and the Timor Lorosae Police Service reported general tranquility all over the country.
Free and fair elections are one of the most important elements of a democratic system. International and national observers and party and independent candidate agents have witnessed all the stages of polling and they will be offering their reports in the next days, but we have not received any major complaints in our polling centers.
Most ballot boxes are by now either being escorted to their secure storage or are already there; the remainder will follow shortly. We believe the people of East Timor can go to sleep satisfied; they have done their civic duty, and tomorrow we will start the counting process. In the next few days, we all will learn what the decision of the people was, and we will know the names of those persons that will write the Constitution of an Independent and Democratic East Timor.
Statement of the Chief Electoral Officer
3:30pm, 30 August 2001
Progress of Polling
Fortunately, polling continues throughout the territory in peace and order with no incidents reported so far. Turnout has been heavy everywhere throughout the day, demonstrating the great commitment of the East Timorese people to democracy.
The details of the process
Some polling centers, particularly in rural areas, report that most of their assigned voters have already cast their ballots. (Approximately 20 percent of all centers) Other centers are still processing a significant number of voters. In all cases, we are confident that by closing time most people desiring to vote will have already done so.
As anticipated, there were delays in some centers throughout Dili related to the size of the voters roll, which slowed down the process of identifying voters. This situation compounded by the very positive turnout, created some crowd control problems. Nevertheless, additional support from CivPol and TLPS was provided, and thanks to the patience and understanding of the voters of Dili, the flow was improved in the affected polling centers, and the situation returned to normal.
Half an hour from now, at 4 pm, all polling centers in the country will close their gates. We encourage those who have still not voted to go to their assigned polling center. Anyone in line at 4:00 will be allowed to vote, provided of course that they fulfill the other conditions for doing so.
The precise time when the ballot boxes will be closed and sealed will depend on the number of people in line at 4 pm. All sealed ballot boxes will then go under tight security to the District Counting Centers or, in a few cases, to secure storage overnight.
As has been the case all day, international and national observers and party and independent candidatesí agents will be present when the ballot boxes are closed and sealed as first hand witnesses, and are invited to follow the vehicles with the boxes to the secure storage locations, and, if they want, to monitor them throughout the night.
Our district coordinators have informed us that in all 13 districts, the process of voting has been conducted peacefully. The people of East Timor, the parties, and the candidates have once again proven that they are determined to live together in a democratic society, respecting different points of view and working together to overcome the difficulties of the past.
Statement of the Chief Electoral Officer 30 August 2001
Opening of the polls
The polls have now been opened for four hours throughout East Timor. We are very happy, though not surprised, to report that all is well and that the election is taking place in a calm and peaceful atmosphere. At 7:00 this morning, thousands of East Timorese people were already queuing at the 248 polling centers all across the country. The IEC welcomes this clear demonstration of the interest of the population in the Constituent Assembly, the Constitution, and most importantly, the future of their country.
The details of the process
In most cases, the IEC polling staff opened the doors of their polling stations to receive waiting voters at 7:00 am, as scheduled. Due to some minor problems, particularly in Dili, some centers opened late, but most opened within 30 minutes. Except in one case, where we have had communications difficulties with the center, we can confirm that at this moment, all polling centers and stations are opened and functioning.
Polling has gone without difficulties. It appears that the people of East Timor are following the procedures to vote without major difficulties and, for the most part, the polling staff are doing an excellent job.
The IECís district coordinators have also confirmed that thousands of observers and party agents have been present at polling centres since before the opening time and have been monitoring that voters are allowed to make their choices freely and in the secrecy of the voting booth.
We have received a note from one party stating that their party agents will not be allowed to accompany the ballot boxes from polling centers to the district counting centers. We would like to make it clear that all parties and independent candidates have nominated agents, and those agents are indeed allowed to follow the vehicle taking the ballot boxes to the counting centers, to keep watch overnight at the secure storage location, and to monitor the entire counting process.
As mentioned, voting has been peaceful and orderly. No particular incidents of disturbance or problems with the polling have been brought to the IECís attention.
The IEC HQs and the IEC district offices will remain in constant contact with the CIVPOL commanders to continue monitoring closely the dayís happenings.
Final message or call
IEC HQ will maintain contact with all district offices providing guidance as necessary to ensure that all who want to participate in this important election are able to do so in a safe environment.
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