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Timor-Leste: UN envoy urges all presidential candidates to campaign fairly

Timor-Leste: UN envoy urges all presidential candidates to campaign fairly

Welcoming the end of voter registration and the official start of the campaigning period for next month’s presidential election in Timor-Leste, the chief United Nations envoy to the small country today reminded all eight candidates to play their part to ensure that the poll is free and fair and conducted without violence.

Atul Khare, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, urged the candidates and parties to respect each other in the run-up to the election, the first since Timor-Leste gained independence from Indonesia in 2002.

“It is important for each of the eight candidates to send strong and clear messages about their political vision for this emerging democracy,” Mr. Khare said in a statement released by the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

“But it is equally important for this emerging democracy that the campaign is conducted freely, fairly and without violence, without intimidation and without misuse of State resources.”

Earlier this month all eight candidates signed a code of conduct committing themselves, and their supporters, to either accept the election results or challenge them only through competent courts and to conduct campaigns that are positive and not based on personal attacks against other candidates.

Other clauses include a commitment to respect the rights of competing candidates and to refrain from exercising any illegitimate influence on voters.

The code was drafted by the Technical Secretariat for the Administration of Elections, the national body which will run the election on 9 April, and was approved by the National Electoral Commission.

The Commission will also supervise the campaigning, which is also being monitored by national and international election observers. Campaigning ends on 6 April, allowing for a two-day information black-out ahead of the poll.

Mr. Khare added in his statement that UNMIT was willing to offer assistance to national authorities during the election period whenever needed.

Eric Tan, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative, told a press conference yesterday in Dili, the Timorese capital, that nearly 1,000 UN Police (UNPOL) officers and more than 2,400 Timorese national police officers will be on duty across the country during the election campaign.

The police will concentrate on protecting polling stations, securing election materials and responding to any security issues such as armed clashes, fires or roadblocks.

Voter registration ended on Wednesday after being extended by five days because of disruptions, but Mr. Tan said the registration process proceeded smoothly overall.