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Following first-ever elections, East Timor begins to count ballots: UN mission

Following first-ever elections, East Timor begins to count ballots: UN mission

There were no reported problems as vote-counting got underway in East Timor this morning - one day after the territory's first democratic elections, according to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

"Step by step, we are approaching the day when the East Timorese will know the result of their common decision on who will be the 88 representatives developing the basic law of an independent and democratic East Timor," said Carlos Valenzuela, UNTAET's Chief Electoral Officer. Voter turnout in yesterday's election was estimated at 91 per cent.

Ballot boxes were securely transported last night from individual polling stations and gathered at the 13 district electoral centres. In the first stage of the counting process, electoral workers are reconciling the number of ballots inside each box with polling records in order to guard against ballot stuffing, UNTAET said. This process is being carried out with the ballots face-down, so choices are not revealed.

The ballots from different polling centres will be mixed together in order to ensure that no one will be able to tell which polling centre any particular ballots came from. Counting will then begin on batches of 2,000 mixed ballots.

The results of the count in each district will be made public when they are complete. The first partial results are expected on 3 September, and an unofficial result could be completed by 5 September. Parties and candidates can then file challenges. After the examination of those challenges, the Independent Electoral Commission's Board of Commissioners will present the results to UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello on 10 September. The Constituent Assembly will be sworn in on 15 September.