Proud voters in the 7 July Parliamentary elections in Timor-Leste
DILI, 7 July 2012 – Today is Parliamentary Election Day and a team of observers is arriving at a polling station in a rural area of Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. The observers from a local NGO, the Alola Foundation, found that the process of voting had already begun in an organized and efficient manner.
The Technical Secretariat of Electoral Administration (STAE) had set up the voting booths and ink pots where voters were asked to dip their fingers into the indigo-blue dye after voting to ensure that each person only gets one vote. The message that voting is a right for all citizens over the age of 17 in Timor-Leste had been publicized through creative efforts, including T-shirts, bags, hats and posters emphasizing women’s and men’s equal right to vote, sponsored by UN Women’s Integrated Programme for Women in Politics and Decision-Making (IPWPDM) in partnership with Irish Aid, Australian Aid and the Government of Norway.
The elections were observed and monitored through the use of a gender-sensitive checklist to survey the changes and improvements that have occurred in Timor-Leste since the two rounds of Presidential elections earlier this year. The electoral observers asked a number of questions from male and female voters on issues including intimidation, effectiveness of electoral structures and procedures in place, media coverage surrounding the elections, and rights of those with disabilities to vote.
In preparation for the national and local elections, UN Women’s partner, the Alola Foundation delivered training to women who were interested in standing for political office. One of the participants from the training commented that all of the sessions were useful, but that the public speaking training stayed at the forefront of her mind. “Before this training, I could not speak in front of people. I lacked confidence and felt afraid,” said Augusta Nunes Soares, a potential local political candidate.
Soares emerged from the sessions as a self-assured and outstanding orator, and said that her new found public speaking knowledge was very useful.
Soares commented that the information given about the legal framework of Timor-Leste that guarantees women’s participation in politics was vital. Campaigning techniques taught during this time shed light on diverse strategies that could be used when raising support from voters.
The importance of working with men within political parties to build support for the women’s agenda in politics was discussed. A participant and political candidate, Roselde Jesus Fatima do Rego, nodded in agreement and explained why training and incorporating men into all aspects of political life is important. “We are all Timorese and women’s involvement in political parties is to build unity to work towards the women’s agenda. We have to team up with men as well to work towards these goals,” she said.
Overall, Election Day was peaceful, reminding Timorese and members of the international community of the privilege that it is to live in a democracy and to be able to cast a ballot to determine the future of the government. This election saw 671 women candidates representing 21 political parties, as opposed to the Parliamentary elections in 2007 with 242 women candidates from 14 political parties, which demonstrates a marked increase not only in women’s interest and desire to stand for political office, but also the evolution of the political atmosphere in Timor-Leste as an increasing number of spaces are cleared for women politicians.
Photo: UN Women/Betsy Davis Cosme