06 May 2012

Timor-Leste MPs Refuse To Amend The Electoral Law

Fundasaun Mahein This year’s presidential election was an overall success, however it
was marred by a worrying reduction in participation. Turnout during
the first round was 78.20% and reduced to around 73.12% in the second round. This is a worrying trend as it shows that a growing number of
Timorese are not exercising their political right. This reduction in
participation can be put down to the current electoral law which forces people to vote in their original place of registration, for which for many is in their home villages in the districts. This places a burden on many as it means organizing and paying for transportation and accommodation.

Therefore, Fundasaun Mahein (FM) recommends that there needs to be a
change in the electoral law to enable people to vote anywhere in the
country as was the case in 2007. The National Parliament should amend
the current electoral law so to facilitate people to vote and therefore to exercise their political right.

However, FM has observed that a proposed new electoral law last Friday
could not be passed due to the lack of a quorum. A large number of MPs
failed to turn up to parliament to vote on the legislation, which meant that a vote on the amendment could not be undertaken.

FM is very disappointed by the actions of these MPs, as it seems that some MPs are not willing to respond to the hard realities a large number of people face in this country, but are instead responding to their political party’s interests.

Apart from the fact that many MPs work first and foremost in the
interest of their political party instead of the people they are meant to represent, this also goes to show that little research and discussion is undertaken before our National Parliament approves laws.
When drafting the current electoral law, forcing people to go back and
vote in their home villages, did our MPs not think of the repercussions on the everyday people of this country? Are the people of this country not struggling enough as it is to simply get by and survive, and forcing people to pay for their transport and accommodation to their home villages represent not an additional burden? The current electoral law as it stands violates people’s right to vote but must obviously serve some party interests.

This example also raises more general concerns in relation to the
legislative process. FM recommends that MPs when discussing a draft
law, should consult more with civil society and the community. This
would allow a more elevated discussion on the draft law and the
conduct of more research on its implications before it is approved, so
to avoid similar problems as the current electoral law. Finally FM
recommends that all future draft laws should be translated into Tetun
so to allow greater access and discussion by people before being


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