For a nation that only won its hard-fought battle for independence 15 years ago, Timor Leste has travelled a long way fast. On 22 July, the Timorese people voted for the fourth time in parliamentary elections to elect the 65 members of the National Parliament. As the first election administered solely by the Timorese themselves, without the guiding hand of UN officials, Saturday’s poll was a significant milestone and a remarkable success. After all, this is a nation that has had to more or less build its democracy from scratch. Former revolutionary leaders exchanged their fatigues for business attire, drafted a constitution and created democratic institutions and governance. Of course there was help from the international community but there is no taking away from what has been achieved on the ground.
Preliminary results from East Timor’s parliamentary election indicate that a change in leadership appears likely, as the leading member of the governing coalition has fallen behind its junior coalition partner. The National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), led by the former independence hero Xanana Gusmao, won just 28 percent of the vote, down from 36.7 percent in the 2012 election, which it won. Fretilin, or Revolutionary Front for an independent East Timor, appears to have won the election with 30 percent – essentially the same level of support it won five years ago.
Voters in East Timor queued up on Saturday to cast their vote in the country’s fourth parliamentary elections since independence in a ballot where campaigning has focused on development and jobs in Asia’s youngest democracy. More than 700,000 East Timorese are registered to vote in the country, which has a land area slightly smaller than Hawaii and is home to 1.2 million people. Over 20 political parties are vying for 65 seats in parliament as frustration grows over the government’s failure to use the wealth generated by oil and gas sales to support development and create jobs. The parliamentary election will determine the country’s prime minister. The official results of the election is expected to be announced by Aug. 6, although preliminary results should come much earlier.
Thousands of East Timorese ended weeks of political rallies and entered a campaign blackout on Thursday before parliamentary elections at the weekend, with fears for the economic future of Asia’s youngest democracy the primary concern for voters. More than 20 political parties are vying for 65 seats in East Timor’s parliament as frustration grows over the government’s failure to use the wealth generated by oil and gas sales to support development and create jobs. The parliamentary poll, which will determine the next prime minister, follows the victory of former independence fighter Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres in a presidential election in March. The president is largely a figurehead, with the government run by a prime minister chosen by the party or coalition that wins the majority of votes.
On July 22, Timorese will once again cast their vote in the country’s fourth parliamentary election since independence from Indonesia in 1999. With the March presidential election now almost a distant memory, all eyes are on the hotly contested parliamentary election. It is interesting to note that despite all the news and controversy surrounding the three front-runner parties, more than 20 parties are registering to contest the election. With former political rivals and revered resistance parties FRETELIN and CNRT locked in a consensus of convenience, it remains to be seen how the coalition government will pan out, with much depending on the ability of newcomer party, Partido Libertasaun Popular (PLP), to make any inroads in challenging the popularity of the two stalwarts.
A former anti-Indonesian guerrilla fighter is leading a slow vote count in East Timor’s presidential election, the country’s first without help of the United Nations. Backed by Fretilin, the party that led the revolutionary struggle to the country’s independence, Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres was leading with 59.24 per cent of votes. But only 34.34 per cent of votes had been counted by early Tuesday, reflecting huge logistical problems in the largely mountainous country with a poor road network. In previous elections, UN helicopters were used to ferry ballot boxes from the most remote polling stations.
East Timor: Long queues as East Timorese choose to have a say in future of Asia’s newest democracy | Sydney Morning Herald
They rode ponies, steered boats and walked for kilometres along cloud-shrouded mountain paths to vote in East Timor’s presidential election on Monday. The vote will be a key to the future of Asia’s newest democracy amid concerns the half-island nation’s oil and gas revenues are rapidly running dry. “I’m really happy … most of the eight candidates are good men who could help my country,” said Mateus Lucas, a 49-year-old father of three, who voted at a school in Dili. “I voted amid fear in 1999 but now I am free to vote for whoever I like,” he said, referring to a violence-hit United Nations referendum where Timorese voted to break away from Indonesia. The election is the first that East Timor has organised without the help from the UN.
Timor-Leste’s electoral commission is giving some Timorese Australians the chance to vote in the country’s upcoming elections for the first time since independence. Citizens living in Darwin and Sydney will be part of the trial, which allows them to vote without flying back to Timor-Leste. In 1975, Darwin resident Dulcie Munn fled Timor-Leste and has not voted since the country’s independence referendum in August 1999. “That’s 18 years ago,” she said. “To be able to participate again this time, casting our vote for the future of our nation Timor-Leste, is quite important.”
East Timor voted on Saturday in a parliamentary election in which Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao’s party faces a stiff challenge from two opponents as it seeks to extend its term at the helm of Asia’s newest and one of its poorest nations. Gusmao told reporters he was confident his National Council of Timorese Resistance party (CNRT) would win 44 of 65 parliamentary seats on its platform of seeking foreign loans for infrastructure projects and expanding the amount of an oil fund used for the state budget beyond its current limit of 3 percent. Gusmao, a guerrilla leader in the fight to end Indonesian rule, became the first president after independence in 2002. The main opposition Fretilin party, also a key player in the fight to secure independence, opposes foreign loans and wants to maintain the percentage of the $10.5 billion petroleum fund used for the budget at current levels.
East Timor is about to face a crucial test of its fragile democracy in parliamentary elections that will determine if UN peacekeepers can leave. The UN, after presidential polls were held peacefully over two rounds in March and April, says it will pull out its remaining 1300 troops within six months if the general election tomorrow goes well. There are concerns that violence will reignite in the oil-rich but underdeveloped state if none of the 21 parties wins an outright majority and a fragile coalition takes power.
Timor-Leste’s presidential election candidate Taur Matan Ruak delivered a speech to supporters on Wednesday that virtually amounts to a declaration of victory. Speaking in the public for the first time since the second round of the presidential polls on Monday, Ruak thanked his supporters and the individuals, organizations and political parties involved in the election. “My Victory Team! All and each one of you, thank you very much! ” he said to hundreds of supporters from a stage. In the background was a campaign post that reads, “in the past I fought with you for independence. Now I am with you again to develop this country.” Ruak, who had the support of the ruling party, had campaigned for presidency saying that he supports a safe and stable Timor- Leste and hopes to help develop the country.
The former army chief and guerrilla fighter Jose Maria de Vasconcelos has won East Timor’s presidential elections, an election official said on Tuesday, citing provisional results. Vasconcelos, known as Taur Matan Ruak, won about 61 percent of the 452,000 votes that have been counted so far, Tomas Cabral, an election commission official, was quoted as saying on local television and radio in the capital Dili. “The tally is still being updated but it indicates that Taur Matan Ruak has gotten the majority of votes,” said Cabral.
East Timor is electing a new president in a run-off vote between two former freedom fighters, ahead of a decade of independence next month. Opposition leader Francisco Guterres and former guerrilla leader Taur Matan Ruak are pitted against each other. The incumbent, President Jose Ramos-Horta, admitted defeat after trailing in third place in the first round of the election last month. Mr Ramos-Horta said he would hand over power to the winner on 19 May.
East Timor’s second presidential election as a free nation will see two ex-guerrillas compete in a run-off vote on Monday, after the Nobel Prize-winning incumbent was knocked out in the first round. Either Francisco Guterres “Lu Olo” or Taur Matan Ruak, both heroes of the nation’s 24-year war against Indonesian occupation, will replace Jose Ramos-Horta, who trailed in third place in a vote seen as a key test for the young democracy. While the presidency is largely ceremonial, it enjoyed a high profile under Ramos-Horta, and the election is the first in a series of landmark events for the half-island nation of 1.1 million people. In May, East Timor will celebrate 10 years of independence, which came after three years of UN administration. Then, in July, voters will choose a new government in a general election. At the end of the year the impoverished and chronically unstable nation bids goodbye to UN forces stationed in the country since 1999.
The second round run-off of Timor Leste’s presidential elections scheduled for mid-April will pit two heavyweights of the decade-old country’s past resistance struggle and signals a shift towards a new era of nationalist politics. Of the dozen candidates who contested the first round contest on March 17, Fretilin party president Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres and former defense chief Jose Maria Vasconcelos, more commonly known by his nom de guerre Taur Matan Ruak, respectively won 28% and 25% of the vote and are expected to fight a tight second round race. The electoral demise of incumbent President Jose Ramos Horta, placed third with 17%, has signaled a decisive shift away from the internationalist stance that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate had come to represent in Timorese national politics.
José Ramos-Horta, the president of Timor-Leste who helped steer the country into independence after campaigning tirelessly for nearly a quarter of a century, has conceded defeat after a poor showing in weekend elections. The first round of voting passed peacefully, raising the prospects of a withdrawal of the Australian-led mission of about 400 UN peacekeeping troops that was deployed to Timor-Leste in 2006 to quell chaotic unrest. Francisco Lu Olo Guterres, of the traditionally strong leftist Fretilin party, was leading with 28% of the vote, followed by the former military chief Taur Matan Ruak with 25%. That means Ramos-Horta, with 18%, has no chance of advancing to a 21 April runoff. “Congratulations to them,” the Nobel peace laureate told reporters. “And also to the people who supported me throughout my mandate.”
More than 1,200 UN forces are ready to intervene in East Timor’s presidential election this weekend if there is an outbreak of major violence, according to the top UN official in the country. UN vehicle escorted by local and UN police force unload ballot boxes at a polling center in Dili, on March 16, in preparation for the presidential election. A decade after winning formal independence from Indonesia, East Timor will hold its second presidential election as a free state. East Timor, which gained formal independence from Indonesia a decade ago, will hold its second presidential poll as a free country Saturday with a line-up that includes the incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel laureate. Ameerah Haq, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for East Timor, told AFP that the campaign period had gone “remarkably well”. The peaceful run-up to the election stands in stark contrast to the rioting and factional fighting that erupted in 2006 ahead of elections the following year, which left at least 37 dead and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
Timorese voters will go to the polls twice this year to elect the nation’s president and parliament for the third time since achieving independence in 2001. The elections, scheduled respectively for March and June, promise to be the most significant to date for Timor Leste, also known as East Timor. The 2002 elections followed the flush of independence from Indonesian rule, while the 2007 polls were overshadowed by the previous year’s political and civil unrest that led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. This year’s elections will define the country’s direction over the next five years during which the United Nations Integrated Mission to Timor Leste and the Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) will both withdraw and national leaders will face critical development issues.
Concerns have been raised about possible intimidation of voters in a number of electoral districts in East Timor by members of the military loyal to their former chief and presidential hopeful Taur Matan Ruak. East Timorese will vote on March 17 in what will be just the second free presidential election in the tiny country since it gained independence a decade ago. Despite leading candidates, including incumbent president Jose Ramos-Horta, having downplayed the risk of a repeat of the violence which marred elections in 2007, observers on the ground have voiced fears about the potential for unrest. ‘I am completely reassured about security,’ Dr Ramos-Horta said told AAP. ‘Our police and the United Nations police are alert all over the country. They have tremendous experience over the years in assessing the situation, in pre-empting any security threats so I am very confident it will be okay.’
Thirteen registered candidates will contest Timor Leste’s presidential election on March 17 and the campaign season just began last week. Despite the lack of surveys to measure the chances of potential candidates, four figures are strongly predicted to lead the pack including the incumbent, Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, head of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin); Francisco Lu-Olo Guterres, head of the Democratic Party (PD); Fernando Lasama de Araujo; and former armed forces chief Gen. Taur Matan Ruak. Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres (Lu Gu), a Fretilin powerbroker with his new party, Frenti-Mudanca (Fretilin-reformist), may have been included. The second-largest party in 2007, the National Reconstruction Congress of Timor Leste (CNRT), led by Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, did not name its candidate, however. Xanana, currently the prime minister, and his rival Mari bin Amude Alkatiri (Fretilin’s secretary-general) will focus on the legislative election, which will be held in June 2012.