BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor .........home ...... Dec news

"As the Constituent Assembly moving swiftly to finalize and approve the Constitution of East Timor, debates about their transformation into Legislative Assembly has already taken place. Mr. Xanana Gusmao, East Timorís national leader began addressing the issue publicly by arguing that East Timor needs a new election to elect the members of the Legislative Assembly. The elections for the Legislative Assembly can be done together with presidential elections in 2002. The reaction against that option was mixed. Mr. Mari Alkatiri, Chief-Minister in Second Transitional Cabinet and Secretary General of Fretilin, the majority party in the Constituent Assembly and Mr. Francisco Guterres, Lu-Olo, President of Fretilin and the Constituent Assembly disagreed. They argue that East Timorese need more funding to rebuild their houses and providing food for their families instead of wasting money in new elections. ... " ETSG Team: Paulino Guterres, BA; Francisco da Costa Guterres, MA; Estanislau de Sousa Saldanha, M.Tech; Helder da Costa, Ph.D; João M. Saldanha, Ph.D

See Excerpt from the Constituent Assembly's Draft Constitution (Português inclusive) below
Includes links to entire text and commentary


Proceedings:
December 2001 Monthly Seminar On Public Policy Issues

The Transformation of Constituent Assembly into Legislative Assembly:
Do we need a new election?

By ETSG Team:

Paulino Guterres, BA
Francisco da Costa Guterres, MA
Estanislau de Sousa Saldanha, M.Tech
Helder da Costa, Ph.D
João M. Saldanha, Ph.D


Contents:
I. Introduction
II. Presentations
III. Questions and Answers
IV. Analysis
V. Conclusion


I. Introduction

As the Constituent Assembly moving swiftly to finalize and approve the Constitution of East Timor, debates about their transformation into Legislative Assembly has already taken place. Mr. Xanana Gusmao, East Timorís national leader began addressing the issue publicly by arguing that East Timor needs a new election to elect the members of the Legislative Assembly. The elections for the Legislative Assembly can be done together with presidential elections in 2002.

The reaction against that option was mixed. Mr. Mari Alkatiri, Chief-Minister in Second Transitional Cabinet and Secretary General of Fretilin, the majority party in the Constituent Assembly and Mr. Francisco Guterres, Lu-Olo, President of Fretilin and the Constituent Assembly disagreed. They argue that East Timorese need more funding to rebuild their houses and providing food for their families instead of wasting money in new elections.

Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, SDB of Dili Diocese supports the idea of having another election for Legislative Assembly because the past election was only done for the Constituent Assembly to draft the Constitution.

Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, Special Representative of Secretary General/Transitional Administrator of East Timor said before the Constituent Assembly on November 22, 2001 that it depends on the Constituent Assembly. If the Constituent Assembly decides to have new elections, he will ask for additional funding from New York. But money should not be a problem.

This public debate  continued  well into  early December 2001. Therefore, ETSG decided to address the issue in its Monthly Seminar on Public Policy Issues. Our aim is to contribute to an informed public debate and informed decision making regarding the transformation of the Constituent Assembly into the Legislative Assembly.

The December Monthly Seminar at ETSG Compound on December 6, 2001 with the topic:
ďThe Transformation of Constituent Assembly into Legislative Assembly: Do we need a new election?Ē

The speakers of the seminar were:

Fr. Juvito Araujo, President, Youth Commission, Diocese Dili;

Mr. Collin Stewart, Head, Political Affairs, UNTAET; and

Ray Kennedy, Ph.D, Senior Electoral Office/Chief of Technical Services, Independent Electoral Commission, UNTAET who replaced Mr. Carlos Valenzuela, Head, Independent Electoral Commission, UNTAET.

The results of the discussions are presented below.


II. Presentations
 

Introduction: Francisco da Costa Guterres, ETSG

Good morning and thank you for coming to our monthly seminar on Public Policy Issues. This is a second monthly seminar that ETSG has organised.  The topic of todayís seminar is ďThe Transformation of Constituent Assembly into Legislative Assembly:  Do we need a new election?Ē This issue has been widely debated in East Timor. Because it is an important  political issue that will affect the lives of many East Timorese, ETSG decided to discuss it in this December Monthly Seminar. The size of the participants is kept to a small number in order to promote deeper exchange of views.

Today we have three distinguished speakers: Father Juvito do Rego Araujo from Diocese Dili, Mr. Collin Stewart from UNTAET, and Mr. Ray Kennedy from Independent Electoral Commission who will share with us their ideas on the issue. Father Juvito will talk from the perspective of civil society, church, and youth. Collin Stewart will discuss the topic from civic education and political process. Finally, J. Ray Kennedy who replaces Mr.  Carlos Valenzuela will discuss the issue from the technicalities of elections.

After the presentations, we will have questions and answers. Now we proceed to the presentation. Father Juvito will speak first, then Colin, and Ray Kennedy. Father Juvito time is yours.
 

1.      Father Juvito de Araujo, President, Youth Commission, Diocese Dili

The actual political situation is not transparent, no political honesty, and the majority party (Fretilin) is imposing their will, no political consensus, so the big name will fade away.

There are five points to give an overview of political situation:
a. Lack of political good will among the political leadership
b. Fretilin as the majority party is not creating an atmosphere  for political participation, which leads to dissatisfaction.
c. The lack of participation will result in  marginalization of certain sectors of  society and losing interest.
d. The future of East Timor lies in the hands of the Constituent Assembly. They are disputing and contending the interests of political elites.
e. There is no transparency and honesty not only from East Timorese political elites but also from UNTAET.

Why do we need to have new elections for legislative assembly? First, Elections for Constituent Assembly was meant for drafting the constitution not to legislative assembly.

Second, those who write the law regard themselves as the right ones.  Therefore, we need new elections to elect dignified and qualified people in the legislative assembly.

Third, the Constituent Assembly cannot say what they want, legalize themselves into Legislative Assembly, and implement the Constitution.  Otherwise, we will kill democracy and create dictatorship.

We need to create a better atmosphere in order to attract participation of the people. Because participatory politics is a product of collective struggle for well informed people against social injustice, dictatorship, and human rights violation.
 

2.      Mr. Collin Stewart, Head, Political Affairs, UNTAET

From the UN perspective, any transition should be short. So when UNTAET was formed, the idea was to organize elections as soon as possible in order for East Timor to have a legitimate representative. Before the elections, UNTAET did it best to consult with the leaders of East Timor, like Xanana Gusmao, National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), Church, NGOs leaders, and some pro-autonomy leaders. For the purpose of broad base consultation UNTAET formed National Consultative Council (NCC), then National Council (NC). The National Council (NC), which was broadly represented by East Timorese was not perfect but  UNTAET was able to consult with them on important issues before elections were held.

Then the elections of August 30, 2001 was held to elect the Constituent Assembly. The elections were democratic and produced a legitimate representation of East Timorese. As a result, UNTAET would like to see major decisions regarding East Timor be taken by the Constituent Assembly as the legitimate representative of  East Timorese.

This also includes a decision of transforming Constituent Assembly into Legislative Assembly. There is an argument that the election was meant to elect Constituent Assembly not to elect Legislative Assembly. Yes, but during the elections, there was also a message that based on the results of the elections, the second transitional cabinet will be formed.

There was recommendation from the Standing Committee of Political Affairs of National Council that the Constituent Assembly may decide to transform itself into Legislative Assembly. So this is the area where the debate started. However, had the National Council decided to have new elections, UNTAET would have followed that decision.

UNTAET clouded that issue as to whether to transform the Constituent Assembly to Legislative Assembly. So it is an open question. However, if people want to have new elections, this has to go through a democratic process. That means it has to be made to the Constituent Assembly, whose the members were elected democratically. So you need to make your voices known. If the Constituent Assembly decides to have new elections, UNTAET should follow that decision.

Nevertheless, there is a time factor here. It needs time to prepare. In addition, new elections may contradict with capacity building process, which was agreed by the East Timorese leaders, including Xanana Gusmao that the Constituent Assembly members will have time to learn about how to represent people. This seems will not happen if the time given to them is very short. I admit that the time table for the electoral process was very quick  and lack of consultation. But the constitution can be revised in the future. I would like to remind that the political process is a long process.

The problem is that  people look at the results of the past elections and they do not like it.

The short timetable was developed, recommended and adopted by the National Council. It is not UNTAETís timetable. The guiding principle of UNTAET is to listen to the East Timorese people not imposing its willing.
 

3.      J. Ray Kennedy, Ph.D, Senior Electoral Officer/Chief of Technical Services, Independent Electoral Commission, UNTAET

The starting point is the Electoral Regulation in March 2001, which explicitly set out that the Constituent Assembly may decide to transform itself into Legislative Assembly.

Regarding the size of legislative assembly, there is a variety in the number of countries with size approximately that of East Timor, namely from 400,000 to 1.5 million. The number of seats in legislative assembly can range from  36 to 80 depending on the size of population.  On average approximately, one seat represents 10,000 votes.

If we do have new elections, there is  cost  argument. Additional funding has to be found to finance elections. Even right now, the 88 members of Constituent Assembly is regarded as quite big.

If we do have new elections, we will be confronting with technical realities. Elections is a complicated event and takes weeks and months to prepare in terms of bringing in people and material. It also needs political decision to bind the political parties.

Preparing for new elections also brings the problem of fairness issue. The current majority party can change the rules of elections that are not fair to small parties. For example, in Brazil during the dictatorship regimes of the 1980s, the government frequently changed election rules to favor the governmentís party.

Usually, we set election day first then independence day. But in East Timor, we set independence day first before election day.


III. Questions and Answers
 

Session I

João Goncalves, Social Democratic Party (PSD)

I am here to represent my President, the president of Social Democratic Party. What I will present is the PSDís position. PSD defends the position of holding new elections for the Legislative Assembly. There are views that if we want to have new elections, money will be a problem. But recently, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello (Special Representative of Secretary General/Transitional Administrator)  testified before the Constituent Assembly that  if the Constituent Assembly decides to have new elections, money is not a problem. He will find money for the elections.

As stated by Father Jovito, there has been lack of transparency on the part of UNTAET on the whole processes prior to the election. Our Partyís President has already questioning the fact that some political parties in their last campaign saying that there is no need to present programs because this election is only for Constituent Assembly and Fretilin was one of these parties. Therefore, I think, our people have not obtained honesty and real information from political parties.

Jose Buras, Democratic Party (PD)

Democratic Party defends the position to have new elections because during the electoral campaign, we did not touch on legislative programs. We only campaigned for the Constituent Assembly to draft the Constitution. For me, it is an ambiguity process that UNTAET has created. This could lead to conflict between East Timorese when the UN leaves. If at the beginning, we have made mistake, it will be worse forever.

If we transform the Constituent Assembly into Legislative Assembly directly, it violates public law (hukum tata negara). It will be regarded as defective (cacat hukum).

Leão Amaral, KOTA

Since 2001, KOTA defends three types of elections. First, elections for Constituent Assembly, which has happened. Second, the elections for the Legislative Assembly and people who will be choose, have to be qualified people. Third, elections for the president with Xanana Gusmao has to be the president.

KOTA also accepts the transformation of Constituent Assembly into Legislative Assembly if: first,  money is not available; second, time does not permit because of rainy season and people cannot work in their gardens and rice field; third, people are feed up with meetings/elections. The political leaders just talk and talk but at the end they forget about those people who elected them.

João Sarmento, Dewan Solidaritas/STL

I just have two simple questions. First, is true that there is regulation on the transformation of Constituent Assembly into Legislative Assembly that is signed by Xanana Gusmao? The second question is about what is the criteria for a candidate to run for president?

Collin Stewart

There were two documents that had been made by National Council. There was a recommendation from the Standing Committee to the National Council and the National Councilís electoral regulation. The electoral regulation says that the Constituent Assembly may decide to transform itself into the first Legislative Assembly. I do not remember that the (Standing Committee of) Political Affairs recommended any thing different but I believe that that was very similar. So, I never seen any thing left, just  like there was no commitment not to have new elections. The word that is written in the document was that the Constituent Assemblyď may decideĒ. That is something UNTAET supports. It is not up to UNTAET to decide.

UNTAET is not taking any position on whether or not there should be a new election. Yes, there is an ambiguity during election campaign on whether the election for Constituent Assembly only or also for Legislative Assembly, but the ambiguity is not done by UNTAET but that was due to the regulation issued by National Council in February 2001. All decisions on transitional process were not done by UNTAET but by Political Affairs Committee of the National Council.

J. Ray Kennedy

I will take a little bit of time to make a point that is a little bit different from Collin. Why the wording in the electoral regulation has the way it is but not as it was? And that was because there was a desire to recognize that the Constituent Assembly was or would be sovereign. There was a desire to limit the decision making of the Constituent Assembly as little as possible. And therefore, there was no way to say an ambiguity whether there would be a legislative election or not?

Why the Legislative Assembly elections are more difficult to administer than presidential elections? There are three reasons: First, legislative elections are much more complex because it involves transforming votes into seats and how many representatives from each districts. All of these need to be discussed but all will disappear when we talk about presidential elections.  Second, candidate registration. You will remember that this electoral regulation has a number of conditions. These include eligible voters, individuals representing districts, they have to reside in district, they could not be a candidate for more than one party, they could not be a candidate for two elections, both national or district representatives. The Electoral Commission possibly has to review over 1,000 candidateís applications and nominations to ensure that they meet each of the criteria set out in the regulation and the electoral procedures. I donít think anyone would expect to be anywhere near a thousand of candidates for president. Therefore, we would have less work to do in reviewing the candidateís nominations and applications.   Finally,  requires more broad education for a legislative election. Having separate ballot, more work in the voterís education for a legislative election than there is for presidential election.

This year we received the signed electoral regulation five and a half months before the elections. The constituent Assembly has now passed a resolution saying that presidential elections should be held during first or second week of April. If we were to have the electoral regulation five and a half months before the middle of April, we would have to have it a month voterís educationago.  The beginning of November would give us five and half months.

The cost of the election is not a major point, certainly there are additional cost if legislative election would be held at the same time with presidential election. There will be some additional cost but they will not be a significant proportion of the total cost. What would cost a significant amount of money, very large money would be holding a separate legislative election.

Finally, on the question of candidateís eligibility criteria. That is certainly a political question, and as I said earlier that the Electoral Commission is not in the business to make political decisions, we are here to carry out political decisions made by others. So we have stated to the Constituent Assembly, we need your guidance as far as possible.

Fr. Juvito Araujo

Both speakers have said that all decisions regarding the transitional process have been made by the East Timorese, but I think UNTAET has a big power here. Therefore, UNTAET has the moral and political responsibility to inform the East Timorese that a decision they have taken is wrong and need to show which decisions are right. If UNTAET knows that the decision is wrong and just let it go, then UNTAET has committed a big sin to the East Timorese.
 

Session II

João M. Saldanha, ETSG

My point regards the technicalities of holding new elections for the Legislative Assembly as raised by Ray. Yes, I agree with you that Legislative Elections is more difficult to administer than presidential elections. But if we do decide to have new elections, there are already some experiences that we can build on. The two elections, the August 30, 1999 and the August 30, 2001, already given us some experiences. Voterís records are still there except we need to clarify and register additional voters. The number of voters is around 400,000 people, this figure is relatively small compared to larger countries. So I believe it is easier to manage. A difficulty question may arise when we want to translate votes into seats, to determine district magnitude, etc, but this does not imply that we cannot hold a new election prior to independence. I believe it is possible to have another election provided that the Constituent Assembly decides to do so.

Natalino de Jesus S.Gusmao/Dewan Solidaritas Mahasiswa Timor Lorosae

The experience that mentioned by Collin regarding civic education, which was not well-carried out, during six months. We have seen that only few people participated in this program. Based on this fact, we could hold a new election for the Legislative Assembly, but the more important thing I think is the that Constituent Assembly has to define how many representatives from each district in the Legislative Assembly. This should be done by this Constituent Assembly, but they have to consult with people in order to know the choice of the people whether they do agree that the Constituent Assembly can transform itself directly into Legislative Assembly or not? If people say that we have done the election for the Constituent Assembly and for that election, we have also given our right to them to transform, then the Constituent Assembly can transform into Legislative Assembly. While if people disagree with the direct transformation by saying that the past election only for this Constituent Assembly, then there should be another election for the Legislative Assembly. We also need to socialise the good ideas like these in this meeting to our people. Because if no socialisation then people do not know where to go. Our people like a horse, which can be managed by political parties, as they want.

Joao Goncalves, PSD

My question is to Mr. Ray Kennedy. As you mentioned that you would prepare for the election by mid March and you would need a political decision by early November to have election. My question is that if we will make the decision by mid December, why cannot it possible for you to prepare the election by mid April because the timeframe is quite the same as that you have said.

Joao Baptista, Private Capacity

I would like to comment on the key word in the electoral regulation. The word ďthe Constituent Assembly may decide to transform itself into Legislative AssemblyĒ. Of course, it is difficult to talk yes or not for holding a new election because the majority members of the Constituent Assembly are from the majority party. Therefore, it is depends on the good will of the majority party to decide. But if we put aside those account, I prescribe to the reasons that you have mentioned. But let me point out two points here.

First, we have had an election for the Constituent Assembly, but that was held under the condition that only people live in East Timor have the right or eligible to vote. My question is what happens to the refugees who live in other parts of Indonesia. Up to now thousands of them, for example from Ainaro already returned, again the issue is whether they will take part of the next election? Will they accept the result or not? It seems to me that if we donít hold another election, then we have violated human rights.

The second point is that at the moment East Timor has 88 members of the Constituent Assembly, other countries may have around 80.  I would think that East Timor should have, may be, around 40-50 sits because of financial constraint. But at the moment if we have 88, we suppose to reduce the number down to 80 members, for example, where do we put the other 8 members because each of them represent five thousand votes?

In terms of raising pressure for to Constituent Assembly, which is argued by both Ray and Collin, I believe that the other ways to pressure is that the Church has to criticize the Constituent Assembly everyday and also other independent groups actively raise the issue through newspaper, TV and radio. And also the NGOs can involve voicing the concept of the minority party.

Meta Guterres, Suara Timor Lorosae

I want to ask Mr. Collin Stewart about Independence Day. Which date is the Independence Day of East Timor, 28 November 1975 or 20 May 2002? The reason I am asking is that the Constituent Assembly has decided that East Timorís Independence Day is 28 November 1975, while UNTAET has set up 20 May 2002 as the Independence Day of East Timor. What is your comment?

Collin Stewart

I think this is a good example why there is a lot of confusing and ambiguity in the transitional process. The day of 20th of May was not decided by UNTAET but by the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly has also written in the draft of the Constitution that 28th November will be the day of declaration of independence. So we have two dates, one in the constitution and another is the decision of the Constituent Assembly. This contradiction has been created by the Constituent Assembly, nothing to do with UNTAET. But let me explain how we interpret the situation.

Based on the decision of the Constituent Assembly, the United Nations will transfer authority to the government of East Timor on the 20th of May. On that date, the international community will begin to recognise the independence of East Timor.  The independence is something that has mean only when it is been recognized by other countries. You can declare your independence but nobody recognises you, it is a fictitious independence.  Independence depends on recognition. The date of 28th of November is an important symbolic date for East Timor, and therefore it has written in the draft of the Constitution as an important date. East Timor can celebrate 28th of November or what ever they want, they can call it what ever they want, but the fact is that the independence is actually come on May 20th.  But it is entirely up to East Timor to celebrate whatever anniversary they like.

But please, the decision of 20th of May was not in any way chosen by UNTAET, it was chosen by the Constituent Assembly. We are following recommendations of the Constituent Assembly. UNTAET is here to implement the will of East Timorese people. There is no point for UNTAET being in East Timor, if the result is not what people wanted. But until August 30, 2001, there was no elected government, we did what we could. We consulted with Mr. Xanana Gusmao and CNRT, and we created body with consultation and National Council represented broadly East Timorese society with a lot consultation going on in choosing those people. It was imperfect, but the point is that we have to get somebody to get their opinion. You may have an opinion, which is contradicted with the decisions of those bodies. Well that is fine, how does UNTAET decide, UNTAETís plans are based entirely on the recommendation of the East Timorese bodies and now we implement it.  If you donít agree with that, well, you should participate in debate. This is not a decision made by UNTAET, but made by the best groups that we can come up with to represent East Timorese people. You can argue that they are not the best people, but I challenge you to tell me who will be the better people to make the decision. So again, please, UNTAET is not making the decision but we are simply implementing decisions that were made by East Timorese body. All the problems that we have now or the things that you disagree with are the result of that process. I am not going to justify, I am just trying to say that UNTAET only followed the instructions that it got. We could do very much differently, if the National Council had advised us differently. For instance to have a legislative election, then we could have legislative election because no particular reasons to say why not. The final point is that the National Council including Xanana Gusmao, included the members of PSD, which in fact dominated the Political Affairs Committee and the one that recommended that the Constituent Assembly may decide to transform itself into Legislative Assembly.

Any body can claim that the National Council was not representative, but the point is that the only one we have and we follow the instruction of that body, we did the best that we could at that time. Now we have elected body (Constituent Assembly), as Ray has said, we very much want to keep all decisions to that body because the body is legitimate. Nobody can say that the Constituent Assembly is not a legitimate elected body. So we want to give as much decision making to that body as possible. If you want to argue differently and you may not like the result of the election but I think in democracy, you work with the democracy to make decisions.

J. Ray Kennedy

Question on refugees who has returned be able to vote. Anyone who met the eligibility criteria, born in Timor or marry with someone born in East Timor and at least 17 years of age can vote. People who are eligible to vote the 30th of August, they will not able to vote if they are not in East Timor. If they have returned to East Timor, I think they still are eligible, as long as they register with civil registry and able to produce the proof of registration in civil registry. My understanding is that they will able to vote.

On the schedule for new elections, if the decisions are taken next week to have a legislative election, and that decision can be carried out, that will be an enormous challenge. But it can possibly be done. The problem is that the Constituent Assembly has essentially said that their role at this point is to draft the Constitution.  As I said earlier nothing would prevent an East Timorese electoral body where perhaps some amount of international assistance for organizing election after independence. What we are talking about is the enormous difficulties posted by the calendar at this point of time in organizing anything other than very simple presidential election before independence.


IV. Analysis
 

1.      The debate

The debate of the transformation of the Constituent Assembly into the Legislative Assembly circles around two major issues: whether the Constituent Assembly directly transforms itself into the Legislative Assembly or to hold new elections for the Legislative Assembly.  Among the reasons of not holding the elections are funding and technicalities to prepare for the new elections. Regarding funding, it is clear during the discussions that money for new elections is not a problem. The UNTAET will be able to find funding if the Constituent Assembly  decides to have elections for the Legislative Assembly.

Regarding the technicalities for holding elections for the Legislative Assembly, time is a big factor. Time is needed for voters and candidates registrations, voter education, determining district magnitudes, etc. In the last elections,  there were five and half months for preparations.

However, the counter argument for the technical problem is that we have done two elections in the past. Voterís registration can be build on the records of the last election. It is a matter of updating it. The number of eligible voters of about 400,000 is relatively small compared to other countries with millions of eligible voters. Other issues like translating votes into seats, candidate registration, and voter education could be done right away because it involves simple arithmetic calculations.  In fact, there are tested formulas to convert votes into seats, district magnitude, and criteria to run for office.

Unfortunately, the Constituent Assembly is more focused on drafting the Constitution rather than allocating some time to debate the issue of transforming the Constituent Assembly into the Legislative Assembly.

Among the reason for holding new elections for the Legislative Assembly is the question of legitimacy. The Constituent Assembly was elected only to draft the Constitution. The electoral regulation says that the Constituent Assembly may transform into Legislative Assembly. But this was ambiguous and it is an open question. Therefore, the transformation could be legally defective as one participant pointed out.

The direct transformation of the Constituent Assembly into the Legislative Assembly will likely be powerless versus the president who will be elected directly by the people, especially when he is voted into the office with huge majority, say 90%. In conflict with the president, the Legislative Assembly will be burdened by the legitimacy issue, which will be raised again and again during the Legislative Assembly tenure. Therefore, having a clear mandate to govern through new elections for the Legislative Assembly is important to provide a better and healthy political interaction between the president and the Assembly. Because both  got the mandate to undertake their respective duties, not a simple transformation from the Constituent Assembly to Legislative Assembly.
 

2.      Reasons for direct transformation of Constituent Assembly into the Legislative Assembly

Below are the reasons to have direct transformation of Constituent Assembly into Legislative Assembly without new elections:

a). The current Constituent Assembly has a broad representation of almost all political parties in the parliament. If the majoritarian system is adopted in the new elections, then there will be less representation in the Legislative Assembly.

b). More new elections  will only burden people. Elections can also be a source of social conflict. Not having new elections may diffuse social conflicts.

c). The direct transformation provides continuity in decision making process in which the current majority party both in the Assembly and the II Transitional Government can concentrate their efforts in reconstruction and development process for the next four to five years.

d). It also provides a learning process and capacity building because of continuity in governance by the current majority party.

e). Economically, the direct transformation of the Constituent Assembly into the Legislative Assembly, is also a cost saving strategy. Resources can be channeled to other reconstruction and development programs in various sectors. In addition, it  also avoids bringing in more people and material that only give more pressure to the budget.

f). It is possible that the results of new elections can produce the same results in terms of composition of winners. So it will a waste of time and energy if we have new elections.
 

3.      Reasons for holding elections for the Legislative Assembly

The reasons for holding new elections for the Legislative Assembly are:

a). The Constituent Assembly was chosen just to draft the Constitution. So the mandate was only for writing the constitution, not to govern.  Therefore, it is not right to transform the Constituent Assembly into Legislative Assembly.

b). The direct transformation of the Constituent Assembly will raise the issue of legitimacy. Because people do not feel that they elected the members of the Constituent Assembly also to govern by transforming the Constituent Assembly into the Legislative Assembly. This is reflected in the Second Transitional Cabinet that will be adjusted when the sovereignty is fully transferred to the East Timorese.

c). The Constituent Assembly cannot legalize/transform themselves into Legislative Assembly because they need to go back to the people asking for consent to govern, either through elections or referendum. If people vote not to transform in referendum, then a new election should be held.  Alternatively, it also is possible to hold elections directly.

d). In the new elections, the political parties will get the chance to present programs rather than focusing on rhetoric statements. This will enable voters to choose parties with best and suitable programs. In the August 30, 2001 elections, voters rewarded the majority party simply for its historical role in the struggle for independence but not a vote based on well-developed programs.

e). The Legislative Assembly and the government formed in after new elections gets strong legitimacy. The issue of ambiguity disappears because people elected their representatives to govern through a free and fair election.

f). A legitimate government based on clear mandate to govern sends a strong signal to investors and donors to support East Timor.

g). With a new election, there is a chance to replace the less qualified people, both in the Assembly and the government by more qualified people, including placement of the right person in the right place.


V. Conclusion

The debate on the transformation of Constituent Assembly into the Legislative Assembly will continue until the issue has been addressed properly. This proceeding has outlined the pros and cons of that option.

The ETSG hopes that this proceeding will contribute to an informed public debate and informed policy making efforts regarding the issue. This is the objective of ETSG of being a foremost think tank in East Timor.




Excerpt from the Draft Constitution:

English:

Dec 7 2001 Constituent Assembly: Draft Constitution:

"DRAFT CONSTITUTION
PART VII TRANSITIONAL AND FINAL PROVISIONS
Section 151
(Transformation of the Constitutional Assembly)
1. The Constitutional Assembly shall be transformed into a National Parliament with the approval of the Constitution of the Republic.
In its first term of office, the National Parliament shall be comprised of eighty-eight members on an exceptional basis." (page 133)

Complete text & commentary [430KB PDF format]
Includes Draft Constitution and Recommendations made by the Thematic Committees & the Chair of the Systematisation and Harmonisation Commission.
Link to East Timor Action Network U.S. site: http://etan.org/etanpdf/pdf2/draftconsten.pdf

Portuguese:

Dez 7 2001 Assembleia Constituinte: Constituição - Texto Base:

PARTE VII
DISPOSIÇÕES FINAIS E TRANSITÓRIAS
Artigo 151.º
(Transformação da Assembleia Constituinte)
1. A Assembleia Constituinte transforma-se em Parlamento Nacional com a aprovação da Constituição da República.
2. O Parlamento Nacional tem no seu primeiro mandato, excepcionalmente, oitenta e oito Deputados." (page 129)

Texto completo e comentário [430KB PDF format]
Inclusive: * Texto Base * Recomendações Das Comissões Temáticas * Recomendações Da Mesa Da Comissão De Sistematização E Harmonização * Observações
ETAN U.S. Web: http://etan.org/etanpdf/pdf2/draftconpt.pdf


See also:

BD: Constitutional Process / Konsulta iha Konstituisaun - A collection of recent media releases, reports, articles and news

BD: Political Parties / Partidos Políticos / Partai Politik / Partidu Polítiku - Contact info, reports and news


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