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.

And the winner is …

What do I want ? Politicians to conduct themselves in an a fair, honest and decent manner.

When do I want it ? At least once before I point the toes would be nice – anywhere.

The lofty ideals of an election to enable people to express themselves to express their views – well, it seems to be slipping into the mire.

Kate over at East Timor Journal has done an excellent job of describing the detail. She has been here a while and can see her way through some of the fog. She was/is an election observer who have access to polling places and to information a little more remote to those who are not observers.

What I saw of the voting was consistent with early praise made by some of the election observers. However, I was curious as to why statements of success were being made a long time before the completion of the entire voting and counting process. It implanted success thoughts a long time before everything was finished.

To be honest, I had thought that during the vote itself, there would be incidents of intimidation but I am still unaware of any reports of this occurring. Dili was crawling with observers (includes international, national and party affiliated) and it would have been near impossible to rig anything during the vote itself. I presume that the more remote areas may not have had the same level of scrutiny as was the case in Dili.

One thing I have noted based on a few conversations was that while voting may have finished at 4pm, counting of papers went on until middle or late evening but some observers had gone before that count was complete and very few stuck around for the final paperwork, sealing of ballot boxes and transporting back to district capitals. It is still true that a number of expats are still under night-time travel restrictions and it is in this sort of environment that international observers find themselves in.

Who knows where it goes from here.

Timor time and numerical analness

Every man and his dog was expecting the provisional final election result tonight – less a few disputes, ballot boxes from remote locations etc. But no, it didn’t seem to happen. I put it down to “Timor Time”.

In “Timor Time”, 10am usually means 10:15am or even 10:30am or perhaps tomorrow. After a while, you don’t let it worry you. You run with it.

So it was probably a slow news day for the highly paid international correspondent hoping to get the money shot of the candidate claiming victory, the exclusive interview with the victor etc. etc. blah blah. Get used to it boys. FOS certainly has !!

I must admit to being unimpressed with the casualness of the reporting of vote count numbers. Official vote numbers and numbers from observer groups (Fretilin and Comeg) all mixed in together and no-one ever seems to state the RELEASE TIME of the figures and WHO released them.

Early in my work career, I worked for a guy (lets call him Don as his name was Donald) who beat me around the head and shoulders for not specifying units of measurement, sources of information and dates of release of information. I never regarded his behaviour as anal, but it has imparted an over-exuberant retentive streak on my approach to numbers and their use to prove whatever point it is one is trying to make.

In a nutshell, at the moment, I haven’t a clue which number means what, where they came from and who provided it. So wine tonight, results tomorrow.

Postscript : It rained most of today and I had an appointment this afternoon with a Timorese guy at 2pm. I was a little late (which I usually never am) but I did’nt let it worry me, assuming that 5 or 10 minutes late would be no problem whatsoever. The main task was to collect something and I would have liked to thank Jaquelino. I arrived at 2:10pm, assuming “Timor Time” was in effect. Goods in a sealed plastic bag left on desk – in plastic for my benefit because it was raining. Jaquelino gone – couldn’t wait. Case proven.

No tally room drama here

I’ll bet many of the international media are hitting the turps now after a frustrating day when Fretilin appeared to have called a press conference for earlier this morning and it didn’t happen.

It also must be pretty disappointing that the tally room (which I have now been brought up to speed on) is not an all singing and all dancing one like in Canberra or Washington. News reports suggest votes are still being counted but I would think all vote counts have been done (except in those areas which suffered from a shortage of voting papers). More likely to be long waits in the aggregation process which probably requires the ballot boxes (and vote counts) to be transported to Dili. On that basis, most should be in Dili by tomorrow and a pretty close approximation to the final outcome should be available by tomorrow night.

I know much of the foreign press has caught onto the Dili results which are pretty much complete. This shows Jose Ramos-Horta a clear leader and Fretilin getting a more modest tally. It could be that the Dili troubles of the last year have been translated into an anti-Fretilin vote in Dili.

But one shouldn’t get too excited because unlike my OZ birthplace, there is not a TV in every home and in fact, no functioning TV outside of the Dili area. No newspapers either, so the Dili news that does get to the more remote areas (and even LosPalos in the east) gets pretty watered down and even misunderstood. In this environment, it is pretty hard for candidates without huge party infrastructures to establish an identity with the voter. And I never saw any large scale use of election hand-outs – probably too costly for everyone.

On the other hand, it does mean that candidates from a more remote area may well completely dominate that area’s voting. I believe this is the case as I heard some of the apparently surprise results when compared to Dili voting patterns.

I am sure that tomorrow night’s vote count will give a pretty good picture of the final result.

By the way, if the only Timorese TV is in Dili and has no ads, there is no (financial) pressure to convert the modest tally room into a cabaret as we all know and somehow tolerate in the west. (Can-can dancing on at AAJs or Exotica, 1am, journos free.)

Voting over – seems ok to me

I base my following comments on a foray out this morning and a later one in the afternoon around poll closing time. Dili is crawling with international election monitors (ie scrutineers, observers), many wearing fishing jackets. The award for the most stylish fishing jacket goes to the EU team, followed by Japan and the UNDP jacket in last place.

Voting hours were 7am to 4pm. Everyone expected voters to go early and indeed they did. There were long queues from opening time, but by noon in most places, the queues had gone and there was no late charge at all.

One of the observers told me that this had been the pattern in most places, with hardly a vote at all in the last hour. There were no signs of malingering youths around polling places that I could see. All the queuing was orderly, quiet, peaceful and there was no sign of frustration, even after queueing in hot conditions for over half an hour. There was no sign of any disorganisation and most people walked to the polling places so even traffic (and parking) didn’t seem an issue.

I am accustomed to seeing party faithful handing out how-to-vote cards, but there was no such thing here. I think all campaigning of that sort is not permitted.

The authorities elected to go for a system where the counting is done at the polling place itself and in the public eye (ie direct eyes of party representatives and other international and national observers, with others looking from the windows). The boxes are opened and each paper assigned its preference under this gaze and the results tallied on a large sheet of paper stuck on the wall. Very simple and very transparent. But the process of aggregating the results is perhaps not as slick as most of us westerners are accustomed to.

We, in the west would be looking for a tally room but I don’t think they have one. I think the voting authority (STAE) pass the results to the independent election committee (CNE) who publish the results as they see fit. Doesn’t have the same drama that a tally room has.

Naturally, the observers have links between themselves across the country, as do the press to some extent. So one would expect that the general trend across the country to be known. It would appear at this stage that Jose Ramos-Horta will have the most votes but it is unclear if he has the 50% of votes to avoid a 2nd round vote with the next best candidate, which at this stage, is between Fretilin’s LuOlu and the Democratic Party’s Lasama.

But you do have to remember that Dili has less than 20% of the total eligible voters so all sorts of things could be happening out there in the districts.

Election Tomorrow

Yesterday was another quiet one – just as you would expect from an Easter weekend. Not that I looked, but I don’t even recall seeing Easter eggs in shops. This is a good thing.

I am not expecting any trouble until tomorrow – election day. There still may be none but somehow once the results start rolling in, I think that will lift tensions, particularly if there are some surprise results.

Voting starts at 7am and goes until 4pm. Voters select one candidate only. Voters can vote at any polling place in the country provided they have their voter registration card or passport. A finger is dipped in indelible ink to record that a voter has done the job and to prevent the “vote early, vote often” syndrome.

There has been a high level of party politics associated with this election, which at the end of the day, is for a president who actually wields very little power. I think it was a major frustration for Xanana Gusmao to find people queueing up to see him with problems and being unable to do anything about it. The presidential role here seems more analogous to “governor-general” in the Commonwealth system but the term “president” here carries a weight far less than say a US president in power terms.

I can recall the issue of a popular vote for Australia’s GG (governor-general). Given the role has no real power over political outcomes (except under exceptional circumstances), I shuddered at the thought of the major parties putting forward candidates for another political stoush. I sort of prefer it that the GG is appointed and just disappears into the background, spending life shaking hands and having lots of cups of tea … and occasionally gets drunk at the races.

Good Friday – 3 days to go

In the interests of continuity, I will try to be good and post daily until the election results are out at the end of next week.

I don’t need to do much as there are international press crawling all over the place looking for a story. The hotels are full and its not because of the holiday weekend.

Yesterday was completely uneventful for me and I have to resort to UN security reports to tell me if anything happened. No-one talked about anything out of the ordinary so I assumed nothing more than the usual occasional rock and abuse. Most of the longer-term expat residents don’t tend to talk much about the small incidents.

By the look of the candidate supporters, there would appear to be a certain proportion of hangers-on looking for a good time. Many looked curiously similar to the same hangers-on around some of the gang fights. For this reason, I am not going to be surprised to hear of the occasional altercation when rival supporters cross paths. This stuff may well be outside the candidate’s control.

Officially, the campaigning is over. I am told that Fretilin supporters are camping out down at Tasi Tolu which is about 8kms west of the centre of town. (I will guess and say in the racecourse area.) I assume other candidate’s supporters are doing the same at various points around the place. One of these groups will end up having a big party next week. Who knows if these groups will stick together right through until next Friday when a final result is expected.

As for me today, a bit of body maintenance may be required and without the peak minute traffic, a bit of sucking in the silence.

Renewed violence – the bloggers view

I was listening to Radio Australia this morning and I heard about the renewed violence in Dili. I suppose the interested listener sitting in OZ is hearing this and thinking things have tipped over again. Not yet.

I moved about yesterday quite freely in central Dili (traffic problems aside) and felt no anxiety re. the security situation. I moved about amongst candidate supporters, as did a number of other expats. Yes, there are a number of extra international media people floating around and they were clearly mixing it with the supporters as well.

I left the scene of the tear gas incident about 1 minute before it occurred and was about a block away when it happened. Even if my timing had been different, I doubt if I would have found myself in trouble as I have no intention of doing more than moving about on the fringes of these big groups.

Of course, if I had seen a confrontation (ie crossing paths) between 2 different groups on the cards, my 6th sense would get me away from the potential conflict point quick smart.

Its all relative. I was much more concerned in January/February and I saw yesterday’s incidents as isolated one-offs. And nowhere near the situation of May last year. However, no doubt there will be more over the next few days.

I think the serious aggro was near the OZ Embassy, which is on the main road (Comorro Road) heading west. This is about 4kms west of the centre of town and this area has been hot for a long time. It would be wrong to infer that the trouble is attracted to the OZ Embassy – it is more that the Embassy is not exactly located in the safest spot in town. So when I talk about central Dili, I mean east of the heliport which is around 2kms west of the centre of town.

Many of the candidate supporters are young teenage males and they treat the whole campaigning process as the biggest party they have seen all year. Think Manchester United winning the European Cup and you are closer to the feel of the campaign rallies, except alcohol does not play a big part in it here. It makes it really hard to come to any conclusions about the electoral intentions of the more silent majority.

I know there was a mobile phone poll but I pretty much discount that for its non-representativeness. So it makes it difficult when there are no reliable pre-election polls and where many people do not want to show their hand until election day in the ballot box. So I have no idea of the result.

One should never forget that no matter what the feel one gets in Dili about candidate’s progress, that many of the candidates do not have the party infrastructure to conduct substantial rallies all around the country. Fretilin have a long established party infrastructure which puts them at an enormous advantage. And according to published electoral figures, Dili has only 19% of all registered voters which is about twice the figure of the next biggest of the 13 voting districts.