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.
I observed the latest election as part of the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) election observation mission in Timor-Leste. Like the Australian government and many civil society organisations, IRI has assisted Timor-Leste on its democratic journey. IRI has maintained a continuous presence in Timor-Leste since 2000, preparing political parties for elections in 2001 and helping them to become more issue-based and responsive in recent years.
The month-long election campaign was peaceful and uneventful. Former President Jose Ramos-Horta moderated a three-hour televised debate between several candidates that was watched by thousands on Timor-Leste’s national broadcaster, RTTL. Political parties held rallies and put up billboards, and used social media (particularly Facebook) to engage with voters.
Full Article: Timor-Leste elections a significant milestone.