Thursday, July 5, 2012

ETAN: Election Observers on the Move

Dili, July 5 - ETAN volunteers joined international election observers from throughout the world yesterday for an afternoon of training by STAE: Timor-Leste's Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration. The structure and legal basis of STAE and the National Electoral Commission (CNE) were explained, as well as the process of setting up polling places, conducting the voting, counting the votes, confirming and announcing the results.

Last evening, STAE saw the observers off with a gracious reception, presided over by Tomas Cabral, STAE's Director General, and with thanks and good wishes from Finn Riske-Nielsen, Acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, along with representatives of other diplomatic missions whose compatriots are observing the parliamentary election.

Today, ETAN's volunteers join their Timorese NGO colleagues as they begin to move out to the districts to monitor the voting on Saturday, July 7. The Viqueque team departs this afternoon; other teams leave tomorrow morning for Baucau and Liquica.

What are we expecting to see? What are we watching for? What are we hoping for?

Starting with the last question - we're hoping, above all, for "free, fair and transparent" - the watchwords of a democratic election process. Asosiasaun HAK, with whom ETAN is observing in Viqueque and Baucau, developed the following objectives: 

Photo by John M. Miller/ETAN

 To observe how:

  • Citizens rights to free and secure elections are guaranteed. The State has a duty to ensure elections run well.
  • The entitlement to live in peace is safeguarded.
  • The people or voters are free to exercise their rights.
 HAK observers will watch, on the one hand, how well the security services are supporting the electoral process, protecting all citizens' human rights; and, on the other, will take particular note of conditions that particularly affect women's exercise of their right to vote. HAK's teams will include in their kit a checklist developed in conjunction with the Alola Foundation for women and children, including such questions as:
  • Is there a gender balance amongst the polling staff?
  • Is there separation of the sexes in the voting line?
  • Were pregnant women or women nursing small children adequately attended to?
  • Did the media interview females?
Election observation is, above all, accompaniment. We watch. We take note. We report. We do not intervene. We hope that our presence will serve as a measure of protection (if it's needed) but, more importantly, as a quiet sign of solidarity.

-- Elice Higginbotham

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