Thursday, April 12

Timor-Leste's elections

Timor-Leste on Monday held its first presidential election since gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002. It looks like two former rebels are headed toward a runoff. Jose Ramos Horta, a nobel peace prize winner allied with the current president, took over as Prime Minister last year. Francisco Guterres is the candidate of the Fretelin party, to which the previous prime minister belonged. The Presidency is an influential position, though not technically as powerful as the Prime Minister. Elections for the latter take place in June.

EU observers endorsed the election results. However, five other presidential candidates rejected them, and it now appears that Ramos Horta is criticizing the vote as well, saying many voters were kept from the polls by intimidation, though it doesn't look like he will object to moving forward with the runoff.

As this piece in The Economist points out, Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) was supposed to be a showcase for UN nation-building. Small and relatively homogeneous, it was supposed to be an easy case. But last year, the former Prime Minister fired half the army for going on strike, causing security to break down and violence to return. Australian troops had to be called in again to quell the fighting. Domestic political rivalries and regional tensions between East and West lay behind the conflict but some blame the UN's poor job of reintegrating former rebels and militias into the army for exacerbating tensions. The UN has spent $3 billion in the country since 1999. "The UN's hordes of experts have made huge efforts to nurture democracy and build strong institutions in Timor-Leste. But it still seems as if one stiff gust of wind could blow it all away."

No comments: