Parliamentary election in plain english

In the first round of the presidential elections, we had candidates from 8 parties. For the parliamentary elections on 30 June, we have 14 parties contesting 65 parliamentary seats. The country is treated as one single electorate and a modified version of the d’Hondt voting system is used to allocate seats based purely on the total number of votes received by the party.

Each party puts forward a list of candidates and if the party wins 10 seats, then the top 10 candidates in the party’s list will get a seat in parliament.

There are 8 extra parties in the parliamentary election (with ASDT and PSD joining as a single entity and CNRT not really existing until recently). For their own reasons, these parties did not contest the presidential election and I will assume those parties have all been around for a while, except the newly formed CNRT party.

If you use the breakdown of votes from the 1st round presidential election, you come up with the majority of the votes (and hence seats) going to Fretilin, ASDT-PSD, PD and to wherever Ramos-Horta’s votes go. As president, Ramos-Horta probably should not indicate where his supporters should vote but it is assumed that a large proportion will vote CNRT given that Xanana endorsed Ramos-Horta as president.

In any case, no one group is likely to have a majority in parliament. So coalitions must be formed to establish a government. The presidential results seemed to indicate that given 2 choices, the vast majority of non-Fretilin supporters will not choose Fretilin. The only smaller party that clearly backed Fretilin for the second round presidential election was Manuel Tilman’s Kota party.

The ASDT and PSD parties indicated their association a while back and have formalised their coalition before the election. I read somewhere that the likely top positions in parliament might be Xanana Gusmao as president of the parliament (LuOlu’s current job), Mario Carrascalao from ASDT-PSD as Prime Minister and Xavier Amaral from ASDT-PSD as Deputy Prime Minister. That may still be speculation but that would indicate a coalition of CNRT and ASDT-PSD with the newer CNRT party giving the nod to wiser heads. Other parties will have their own ideas on what will come out of the electoral mincer.

I imagine a lot of work is being done on coalition building at the moment but we may not know much about it until after the election. PD appear to have slagged off Xanana which suggests PD may go it alone rather than form a coalition. But what happens this week may mean nothing next week.

But don’t forget the biggest de-facto coalition of all – the UN and whoever sits in government. Time for an aspirin and a good lie down.

Election results – 80% of votes counted

With over 80% of the votes counted, Jose Ramos-Horta is getting around 69% of the vote to Francisco (LuOlu) Guterres at 31%. This is leading up to a preliminary final result which may be released tomorrow.

There will then be a few days to firm up these figures before final detailed results by district and sub-district. I can’t see the margin changing much even though it is more likely that later results will favour LuOlu (I think he does better the further one is from Dili).

Election feedback

I was fortunate enough to be able to attach myself to an election monitoring team yesterday. This gives one better access to polling stations and given nothing on TV, an interesting day moving about.

One difference between the 2nd round and 1st round voting days was the absence of clashes between rival party supporters before the vote. It has been pretty quiet in Dili in this regard.

Based on what I saw and on comparisons others have made between today’s vote and the last vote was that things seemed a bit quicker and streamlined. At one polling station, I did a simple timed count and found they could process voters at a rate of one every 20 seconds when in full flight. At the first election, the figure was around 30 seconds.

A similar pattern emerged to last time – everyone is keen to get the whole thing over as soon as possible. Both personal observation and other feedback suggests a similar desire to queue up before 7am and a preparedness to queue for up to 3 hours despite most voting over and done with by noon.

The early voting figures from the polling centre I saw suggested that Jose Ramos-Horta clearly led the polling in Dili. Other feedback from other observers suggested similar results around Dili. There appear no surprises in that respect.

There were some security issues associated with some of the local Timorese hanging around during the vote counting but in the end, nothing happened. I expect to hear a few things on the grapevine today.

Politics is politics

If politics really was all about policy and management of a country’s resources (in a wider sense) then I might get a shade more interested. Admittedly, the presidential election is more about the man rather than the party, so I suppose a certain amount of dumping on your political opponent is to be expected.

Some of the one-eyed political blathering (from both sides) has been pretty hard to take seriously. Some of the statements made of late have contained significant distortions of the truth and large departures from relevance. I don’t see it as a good sign for the “real deal” parliamentary elections coming up soon.

I missed the main candidate rallies over the weekend, mainly because I didn’t know about them. (Watch the football on TV or go to an election rally ?) But I saw evidence that the ISF (ie OZ/NZ military) were more visible but this was to be expected after some of the roughing up that occurred around some of the round one election rallies.

Last time, voting day was Easter Monday, but this time it is a Wednesday. I think this pretty much means it will be a holiday. I tried the Little Pattaya Thai restaurant on the weekend (an offshoot of the Bangkok Spice 2) and it seems a pretty nice place to spend an election day.

Election run-up

I may be missing something but it just doesn’t seem like the same level of interest in the presidential election run-off. The rallies just haven’t risen above a threshold that I have noticed. There are 3 days to go and I guess plenty of opportunity to do something big. But the huge street rallies of the 1st round election just haven’t happened yet (or no-one is taking any notice).

I am no election predictor but if voters go with their 1st round vote AND follow the preference of their 1st round candidate’s 2nd round preference, one would expect a Ramos-Horta victory with from 60 to 70% of the vote.

The foreign election monitors will be here and one would expect them to be a little more focussed on the locations where problems may have occurred during the 1st round vote and also focussed on the procedures which appeared to have weaknesses.

At the end of the day, the parliamentary elections in a month or so will be the real deal. There are many who can’t wait until that is over so that the wheels of government bureaucracy can move a shade quicker.

Election news

Today, the last of the losing first round presidential candidates declared their endorsed candidate for the 2nd round. The Democratic Party’s Fernando “LaSama” do Araujo formally endorsed Jose Ramos-Horta.

If the supporters of the other six candidates vote exactly according to their leader’s endorsement for the second round then the second round contestants LuOlu (29%) and Ramos-Horta (22%) would expect to go to something like 31% and 69% respectively.

It is unlikely to go quite like that but even if only 80% follow their leaders endorsement, it would end up something like LuOlu (40%) and Ramos-Horta (60%).

Some people still say the first round election was fundamentally flawed and it is truly fortunate that the results were so distinctly separated in vote numbers that no-one is convinced an accurate count would change the final result. But it has put more pressure on the 2nd round result to get it right.

Thankfully, it appears it was no Nigeria or as bad as Florida.

Election final result blues

I suppose a lot of people were geared up ready for trouble on election day then when the results seemed clear the next day and then after a pause, when the final results were posted on Wednesday.

There had been almost no trouble at all for a month until Wednesday night. All I know is that there were rock fights in Bairo Pite which repeated on Thursday night. And tonight, a message that there were rock fights at the Colmera junction (ie 100m west of Hotel Timor on the pharmacy corner). There has not been trouble there for quite a while since the Colmera gangs were taunting the people in the Jardim IDP camp between Hotel Timor and the port entrance.

I heard a few police sirens but that’s all I know. I think they are probably relatively small and controllable. It belted rain this evening so didn’t seem like a good night to go out but I guess it doesn’t stop the lads looking for some evening biffo.

Final provisional results except for …

The “final provisional unlikely to be changed (much) penultimate” presidential election results were released to the public this afternoon :

Candidate Total Votes Percentage of Vote
Francisco Guterres “LuOlu” 112666 27.29%
Avelino Coelho 8338 2.06%
Francisco Xavier do Amaral 58125 14.39%
Manuel Tilman 16539 4.09%
Lucia Lobato 35789 8.86%
Jose Ramos Horta 88102 21.81%
Joao Carrascalao 6928 1.72%
Ferdinand de Araujo “LaSama” 77459 19.18%
TOTAL VALID VOTES 403946 99.40%

The total valid votes represent about 77% of the 522,903 registered voters and I think 82% actually voted (ie meaning 5% invalid for whatever reason – blank, not distinguishable or plain incorrectly filled in). I am not sure if all complaints have been thoroughly gone over and sorted. And these results are subject to appeal.

There will no doubt be a press release which answers some of the questions and explains where to from here.

This means that LuOlu and Ramos Horta will be contesting the run-off election. What may have happened if Ramos Horta had never put his name in ?

I am lucky that my deadline is when I get home and have something to say !

An election without commercial breaks

In the western world, one forgets that the whole electioneering process is one huge commercial/PR exercise. The mission is to get your vote and who cares if you don’t give it much thought. On election night, it is the TV networks who seem to control the flow of events. There is an expectation of candidates claiming victory or conceding defeat doing so after the commercial break. It just wouldn’t do to ruin the ebb and flow of tension during the count.

In Dili, there is no such dominance by the TV networks. As elections go, the post voting events have been terrible for media groups searching for a story. The vote count has been slow and apparently flawed, but no-one has been found with a smoking gun (eg seen on film tampering with ballot boxes) and we just wait. Press conferences by the election commission (CNE) come and go without much new information to add.

Even the CNE press spokesman Father Martinho has taken a step back after making controversial statements at his press conferences. The small amount of tension just waiting for another PR gaffe from the Father has been removed. Maybe the Father forgot he wasn’t preaching to his flock on Sunday morning. But let’s not forget that this guy did his press conferences in 4 languages one after the other – Tetum, Portuguese, Indonesian and English.

Over the last couple of days, I have heard (on Radio OZ) John Howard and Kevin Rudd slug it out in attempts to dump the most excrement on each other. If they think I am impressed, I am not.

So in the end, I tend to prefer the Timorese way. Keep it low-key, keep it simple, keep it non-commercial. But lets get the vote count correct, shall we ?

What next ?

The international press have been widely reporting on the election outcomes and to be honest, I think they got bored and left. Meanwhile, we wait for the electoral commission (CNE) to make a statement on what happens next.

I believe a definitive statement from CNE is coming Tuesday afternoon – maybe.

To summarise the position as I understand it, I think it goes like this :

  • There were 8 candidates for the president’s job. Unless one of the 8 received more than 50% of the votes, a second round run-off will be held – currently presumed to be 8 May.
  • The Fretilin candidate Francisco Guterres (aka LuOlu) won around 26% of the vote, the independent Jos Ramos Horta (presumed to be really CNRT) won 22% and the Democratic Party’s Ferdinand de Araujo “LaSama” was third with around 19%.
  • There are a number of complaints from various polling stations about irregularities, ranging from insufficient ballot papers to inconsistent declaration of invalid voting papers to fundamental errors in aggregating the votes to poor voter education. It is a distinct possibility that a re-count of some ballot boxes will be held and a a possibility some polling stations will be asked to conduct a re-vote. So the above numbers may change.
  • Ramos Horta appeared to win in Dili and some surrounding areas quite convincingly and when the numbers were first tallied, Ramos Horta appeared to have a substantial lead. When numbers came in from the east of the country where Fretilin is strong, the numbers shifted back the other way. LaSama was a big winner in the western districts.
  • At this stage, no-one is presuming that the final numbers will alter the relative positions of the 8 candidates, so everyone os still presuming a LuOlu vs. Ramos Horta run-off election in May.

Kate over at East Timor Journal gives a great account of the voting details and some of the problems.

The final statement from CNE will be important and may set the scene for the run-off election. Both LuOlu and Ramos Horta need to win support from followers of the other 6 candidates. At this stage, most expect Ramos Horta to pick up the majority of these votes, but this will depend on whether the other 6 candidates recommend support for a particular candidate, leave it up to their followers to decide or recommend not voting at all.

I believe the vote itself has provided the people with the best idea so far of what the country’s general voting intentions might be. Pre-election polling is still pretty unsophisticated and I think some people will change their vote based on the popularity (or unpopularity) of their choice.

By the end of the week, we will all have a better idea of what might come next.