Friday, June 08, 2007

Political Parties and Groupings of Timor Leste 2nd Edition

Groupings of Timor Leste, February 2007
Political Parties and Groupings of Timor Leste 2nd Edition - Bahasa
Second Edition of Political Parties and Groupings of Timor Leste now available for download.

Date: 06 June 2007

ALP International Projects continued its support for consolidating the democratic gains in Timor Leste made since the first elections for the legislature in 2001. With elections scheduled for 2007, ALP International Projects will provide a multi-party program to Timor’s main political parties in campaigning, party organisation and policy development.

In February Gavin Ryan, an activist in Australia-Timor Leste relations and a member of the ALP International Projects team which visited Dili in November 2006, visited Dili for consultations with Timor’s major parties on their platforms, people and prospects for the June 2007 polls. Based on the responses from the political parties, Ryan has updated the Political Parties and Groupings of Timor Leste first undertaken by Pat Walsh for the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA - now the Australian Council for International Development [ACFID]) in 2002. The second edition is also available in Bahasa.

The guide has been designed as a living document to be updated regularly. We invite readers - particularly Timor Leste’s political parties - to respond via our website with updates and new information as it comes to hand.



Timor-Leste became the world’s newest nation in 2001. The nation
needed a constitution, so national elections for a Constituent
Assembly whose sole purpose was to develop one were held on 30
August of that year.

Over the months that followed, decision-making and power were
transferred from the United Nations Transitional Administration
(UNTAET) to the democratically elected East Timorese legislative and
executive bodies. The final steps came with the Constituent Assembly
approving the new Timorese constitution in 2002. Timor-Leste’s
national legislature came into being when the Constituent Assembly
passed an enabling resolution making it the first National Parliament.
The current National Parliament consists of 88 members who were
elected on 30 August 2001 to the Constituent Assembly. With the
transformation into the first National Parliament in 2002, the
Parliament has a term of up to five years which means that elections
are due in 2007.

The Presidential elections held in April and May 2007 resulted in the
victory of former Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta. The President is
directly elected, and although the previous election was largely
separate from party politics, political parties are taking an increasing
interest in this important role, as demonstrated by the current election.
Twelve political parties gained representation in the Constituent
Assembly and hence were represented in the inaugural National
Parliament of Timor-Leste. The parties are represented as follows:

FRETILIN Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor 54 seats
PD Democratic Party 7 seats
PSD Social Democratic Party of East Timor 6 seats
ASDT Social Democratic Association of East Timor 6 seats
PNT Timorese Nationalist Party 2 seats
UDT Timorese Democratic Union 2 seats
KOTA Union of Timorese Hero Sons 2 seats
PPT People’s Party of Timor 2 seats
PDC Christian Democratic Party of Timor 2 seats
UDC Christian Democratic Union of Timor 1 seat
PST Socialist Party of Timor 1 seat
PL Liberal Party 1 seat

New electoral laws have recently been passed for both the Presidential
and Parliamentary elections. Concentrating on the Parliamentary
election laws, Parliamentary representation will change from the 88
seats currently to a minimum of 52 and a maximum of 65. There are a
number of other significant changes including a requirement for
parties to run 90 candidates, and that parties must achieve 3% of the
vote to achieve any representation. These changes will make it much
harder for smaller parties to be elected, and may lead to many of the
smaller parties merging (as some are already doing) or working
together in coalition.

In the first few years of nationhood, Timor-Leste’s system of
Government and governance has faced many varied challenges.
The regrettable re-emergence of political violence in Timor-Leste
has been a stark reminder of the continuing gap between the
hopes and expectations of the citizens of the young nation and the
realities they face of large-scale poverty, youth unemployment and
community insecurity.

Challenges have also arisen in the political arena as the political
culture grows and matures in Timor-Leste. These include:

* The existence and use of martial arts groups and political
violence The continued prevalence of martial arts groups and
violence in the political arena are a constant source of disquiet
locally and internationally. (For previous recommendations made
regarding the political culture in Timor-Leste see Appendix 2).

* Resources There is little in the way of resources available for
political parties, except for those in Government. Parliamentary
representatives receive no resources apart from their parliamentary
salaries, with which to carry out their responsibilities. The
advantages of incumbency can be seen as excessive.

* Access to information Finding out about what is going on in
Timorese politics can depend a lot on who you know and what
languages you speak. Parliamentary documents are produced in
Portuguese (as are all Government documents) causing problems
as only roughly half the current Parliamentarians can read
Portuguese well and a large percentage of the population have little
or no Portuguese language skills. There is little public consultation.
Freely available public information in Tetum about political
participation and the political system is rare.

Despite these challenges there have been many positives since
independence with political freedom flourishing. Political parties and
individuals can organise and campaign freely, with opposition parties
working together and the Government willing to incorporate some
minor party policy. The elections in 2007 should allow the
consolidation of these gains.

For some parties, politics in Timor-Leste is a case of continuing their
historical mission with much the same cast, while for others recent
events have given them a much more contemporary focus. Whether
old or new, however, one factor is striking – Timor-Leste is starting to
see greater political diversity. New faces are entering the political
arena, with alternative policies being strongly held and promoted.
Contrast this with the first years of Timor-Leste’s independence when
almost all of the parties, with the exception of one or two, had largely
similar platforms and commitments.

This publication is by no means the complete guide to Timor-Leste’s
political parties. Even now, after a full term of the first Parliament, new
parties are still emerging and established parties are refining their
policies and platforms, as well as looking to see what structures and
activities might best facilitate their aims. It will always be hard to gain
an accurate and detailed picture of all the political groupings in Timor-
Leste given the fluid nature of politics and the relative youth of the
nation’s institutions.

It is hoped these notes will assist in answering questions in relation to
the political parties of Timor-Leste. Given the scarcity of political
information available in Timor-Leste it is hoped that this publication
will serve as a handy contact list for Timorese who are interested in
social change and the political process. To this end, we will look to
have this translated into Tetum. It should go some way to explaining
how parties have changed over time, the people behind them, and
what ideas and policies parties have for the development of Timor-
Leste. More information should become available over time, as parties
reach out to more people, civic education grows and the reporting of
political events becomes more widespread. This should in turn mean a
more responsive and accountable political system.

The document focuses on the present and the future, rather than the
past. Where possible, however, historical background has been
included. This is an essential part of any transparent curriculum vitae
and is not intended in any way to compromise any party or politician.
Timor-Leste is in the process of establishing a strong democracy
and identity. Its political leaders and parties should be permitted the
same freedom.

As far as possible, the information in the pages which follow has been
based on interviews with party leaders or officials and on official party
documents where these exist or could be obtained. I have also
benefited from the assistance of the following: Pat Walsh, George
Thompson, Maria Noronha, Manuel Napoleon, Andrew Chin, Senator
Gavin Marshall, Michael Morgan, Karen Moyers and Gillian Davenport.

I have drawn on the following works for information: ‘A Survey of
Gangs and Youth Groups in Dili, Timor-Leste’ (commissioned by
AusAID, research by James Scambary, Hippolito Da Gama and Joao
Barreto September 2006), ‘Anatomy of Political Parties in Timor-
Leste’ Joao M Saldanha (ANU, 2005).

Any mistakes are entirely my own work and I would appreciate
receiving corrections. Please remember that this is a ‘living’ document
which will constantly be updated given that new parties are still being
created and with parties constantly releasing information. I would also
appreciate receiving news of policy initiatives and other developments
to assist with the updating process.

Gavin Ryan
Please forward your comments to us via our website , email:
or by mail to PO Box 6222, Kingston ACT 2604, Australia

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