Global perspective Human stories

UN mission chief praises spirit of East Timor election campaign

UN mission chief praises spirit of East Timor election campaign

The head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) today said that the campaign for the territory's upcoming elections was proceeding peacefully and that the East Timorese people deserved praise for embracing the political process with energy and determination.

"The campaign is more than two-thirds over and is proceeding in an atmosphere of enthusiasm and healthy competition," UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello said at a press conference in the capital, Dili. He noted that more than 100,000 East Timorese had taken part in civic education events designed to raise awareness of the electoral process, and that more than half of all eligible voters had turned out to check their personal data on the electoral rolls.

Mr. Vieira de Mello cited a recent audit into electoral preparations by South African judge Johann Kriegler, who earlier this month said that in no other country had he witnessed such a high level of awareness by the people of why they had to register, what the election was for, and what the Constituent Assembly will do.

The UNTAET chief also praised political parties and independent candidates for adhering to the Pact of National Unity and the Electoral Offences regulation, but warned that there was a clear distinction between normal competition among political parties and coercion and intimidation that must not be crossed. "The East Timorese have developed an allergy - a zero tolerance - to violence and coercion, and those guilty of attempting this will be judged on election day," Mr. Vieira de Mello said.

Elections for an 88-seat Constituent Assembly are set for 30 August, when 13 members will be elected by voters to represent each of East Timor's districts, and 75 chosen on a nation-wide proportional representation system. The Assembly will have 90 days to write and adopt a Constitution that will determine what type of political system East Timor will adopt.

Meanwhile, the East Timor Transitional Cabinet yesterday reviewed and endorsed a set of benchmarks for the support of a successful transition to independence. The benchmarks were originally established at a December 2000 donors' conference in Brussels, and have since been further developed. They define the targets that the East Timor Transitional Administration has set itself, to progressively achieve the transition to independence and to provide increased services to the people of East Timor.