European Union observers have congratulated the Timorese people and electoral authorities for working together to organize a successful presidential election.

European Union observers have congratulated the Timorese people and electoral authorities for working together to organize a successful presidential election.

Head of the EU Election Observation Mission Izaskun Bilbao Barandica said the election process was run freely and fairly with respect to universal rights, according to the Timor-Leste constitution.

He said this year’s vote was particularly significant as it was the country’s first election organized without international support.

He said the election process had been clear and transparent throughout, from the electoral and candidates registration until the ballot and counting of votes. 

However, the mission also identified a number of issues that need to be improved in future elections. 

These included regulations about campaign funding for political parties, media coverage and the lack systematic controls at polls, which could potentially lead to duplicate votes.

Observers also raised concerns about the delayed approval process for the electoral law, which created uncertainty during preparations and limited the powers of the National Electoral Commission (CNE), as well as the failure of candidates to follow their official campaign schedules. 

Barandica called on the government to strengthen its civic education program for election officials and communities in the future as the reality showed that voting centers were not well organized.

He said the EU team would continue to follow the process until completion and planned to return to Timor with a larger number of observers for the parliamentary elections in July.

After the two elections are concluded, the mission will publish a report detailing the role of observers and its recommendations for improving the electoral process in the future.

Meanwhile, CNE President Alcino Barris thanked observers for their contribution.

While he acknowledged that although some mistakes had been made, he said this year’s presidential election was still been a significant success for the Timorese people.

“We have national observers from civil society, including the [Catholic] Church that organized their personnel, but this was not enough to cover the entire country because our human resources are limited,” he said.

In order to ensure the transparency of results and anticipate any irregularities, he said it was important to have observers at all voting centers should have the observers, but in reality this wasn’t possible.

Regarding the logistical problems faced by candidates, he said law number 2/2006 gave political parties the right to claim their subsidies after the election was completed, with the amount depending on the number of votes that they received.

Under the law, each candidate is entitled to receive $1 to $10 for each vote, but as the exact amount remains unclear, Barris said there needs to be further regulation to clarify this.

In previous elections, political parties received their subsidy at the start of the campaign process, with coalition candidates receiving $35,000 and single-party candidates receiving $20,000, but that law has since been modified.

Former President Jose Ramos-Horta also thanked the EU observers for bearing witnesses to the democratic process in Timor-Leste.

“As a Timorese, I am proudbecause the delegation has a strong influence on the world,” he said. “They have a good message and can bring the name of our country to the world.”