28 May 2018

Timor-Leste Constitution Article 106: Lost in Translation

East Timor Law & Justice Bulletin Supporting the rule of law in Timor-Leste
There remains confusion about the exact text and meaning of Article 106 in many authoritative sources of the English translations which ought to be clarified at once by repetition of the best available translation of that Article. I have recently been taken to task for not understanding this Article but the commentator was using an incorrect translation.

The original Portuguese text of Article 106 is:

"O Primeiro-Ministro é indigitado pelo partido mais votado ou pela aliança de partidos com maioria parlamentar e nomeado pelo Presidente da República, ouvidos os partidos políticos representados no Parlamento Nacional."

Google Translate translates this accurately as:

The Prime Minister is nominated by the most voted party or alliance of parties with parliamentary majority and appointed by the President of the Republic, after hearing the political parties represented in the National Parliament.

But many sources do not cite the correct English translation of the original Portuguese text including the English versions on the Government of East Timor's own web site as well as the East Timor Ministry of Justice. Constitute Project and Constitution.org use the same erroneous translation. Instead of the correct translation, this is the mistranslation of Article 106 that those sources use:

Section 106 (Appointment)

1. The Prime Minister shall be designated by the political party or alliance of political parties with parliamentary majority and shall be appointed by the President of the Republic, after consultation with the political parties sitting in the National Parliament.


The Error

This latter translation omits critical words of the original Portuguese text and mistranslates the Article completely.

Those critical words "the most voted party or alliance of parties with parliamentary majority". The relevant original Portuguese words in Article 106 are:

"partido mais votado ou pela aliança de partidos com maioria parlamentar"

It therefore becomes clear that there is a crucial misleading error in the commonly-referred to English translations of East Timor's Constitution.

The correct English translation of Article 106 of the Constitution of East Timor is:

The Prime Minister is nominated by the most voted party or alliance of parties with parliamentary majority and appointed by the President of the Republic, after hearing the political parties represented in the National Parliament.
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