DILI — Voting took place today in East Timor to choose 65 members of parliament, who Timorese hope will form a stable administration after a year of political uncertainty and the quick collapse of a short-lived minority government. “The winner is already here in front you,” said Mari Alkatiri, leader of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, or Fretilin, speaking to the Nikkei Asian Review after voting shortly after 7 a.m. at a school near Dili’s picturesque waterfront. Alkatiri was prime minister of a short-lived government formed after the last election in July 2017. But his coalition held just 30 of the 65 parliamentary seats and its minority government soon fell, after the Parliamentary Majority Alliance opposition coalition declined to support Fretilin’s program for government.
DILI — The party of East Timor’s prime minister won the majority of seats this weekend in peaceful parliamentary elections, paving the way for him to form another coalition government as the country faces its second major transition a decade after independence. The elections come at an important juncture for the impoverished half-island country, which celebrated its 10th birthday May 20. The United Nations mission and police are slated to withdraw by 2013, by which time Australian and New Zealand troops who have been stationed there on a separate peacekeeping mission will have departed. These changes will leave the young democracy standing on its own feet, and perhaps in a better position to pursue its goal of joining the regional bloc known as ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. “The next five years are crucial for us,” says former President Jose Ramos-Horta.
BANGKOK — When incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta lost the March first round of Timor-Leste’s presidential election, some saw it as the end of an era for Timorese politics that began with the country’s independence in 2002. Ramos-Horta, along with opposition leader Mari Alkatiri and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, have dominated since independence, with the top jobs of prime minister and president passing between the sometimes comrades, sometimes rivals. The new President of the country also known as East Timor is former army chief Taur Matan Ruak – a man the from same resistance fighter leadership that fought in the jungles against Indonesia’s elemental 1975-99 occupation, which by some estimates killed a third of the country’s people. Although the new President doesn’t have Ramos-Horta’s international profile, his personal prestige as army head and ex-jungle fighter backed by the opposition Fretilin party machine – meant that Ramos-Horta was knocked out of the race in the first round with 21 percent of the vote. Taur Matan Ruak is a nom de guerre, meaning “two sharp eyes” — a soubriquet he acquired after joining Timor’s Falintil resistance fighters in 1975.