East Timor is a country located in the region of Southeastern Asia. East Timorese politics is dominated by two camps: representatives of the old Independence Party Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin), and politicians in the circle of former guerrilla leader, president and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão and the National Congress of Reconstruction. After less than a year with Fretilin in office, Gusmão’s political camps won a re-election to Parliament in May 2018. Almost two years later, that government also cracked down. Now the country is ruled by a four-party government under Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak.
In March 2017, Fretilin leader Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres won the presidential election in the first round. Of the seven other candidates, António da Conceição from the Democratic Party received the most votes. Guterre’s victory was expected since both Fretilin and CNRT had expressed their support for him.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of East Timor, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Guterres belongs to the political elite of East Timor and was a guerrilla soldier in the military branch of Fretilin Falintil during the liberation war against Indonesia (see Modern History). The fact that the two major parties joined behind the same candidate led to the electoral movement and election day being calm with only occasional violence. Some analysts warned that East Timor now in practice lacks a real opposition.
Fretiline forms government
In the parliamentary elections in July 2017, Fretilin and CNRT were very even. Fretilin won 29.7 percent of the vote and received 23 of the 65 seats. This was a slightly better result than in the 2012 election. CNRT gained 29.5 percent and backed by 8 seats to 22. President Taur Matan Ruak’s newly formed People’s Liberation Party (PLP) received just over 10 percent of the vote, giving 8 seats, while the Democratic Party (PD) received just under 10 percent and 7 seats. The new “youth-oriented” Khunto received 5 seats. There were no reports of electoral violence.
President Guterres gave Fretilin the task of trying to form a coalition government. Fretilin first tried to form government with PLP, but when this failed, PD and Khunto were invited to the negotiating table. Only in September could a minority government be presented between Fretilin and PD, with former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri as the new old head of government.
Government crisis and new elections
The opposition, consisting of CNRT, PLP and Khunto, had a majority in parliament and voted down the new government’s political program in October 2017, which included, among other things, doubling the tax on profits that did not come from oil extraction. The same thing happened in a second and decisive vote in December. This meant that the Fretilian-led government had to resign according to the constitution. In January 2018, President Guterres disbanded and announced new elections until May 12.
The Opposition Tripartite Coalition The Alliance for Change and Development (AMP), in which CNRT joined with PLP and Khunto, won the new election by 49 percent of the vote. It gave 34 seats. Fretilin received 36 percent and 23 seats. Election Day was calm even though the election movement was fierce and violent, with dozens injured in clashes between Fretilin and AMP supporters. Among the election issues, the economy was in focus.
In June 2018, President Guterre’s PLP leader Taur Matan Ruak, former guerrilla leader, defense minister and president, appointed a new prime minister. He formed a government consisting of CNRT, PLP and Khunto. One month later, the government’s political program was approved by Parliament.
The Prime Minister resigns – and re-enters
In January 2020, East Timor was thrown into yet another government crisis when the government’s draft budget was voted down. 20 out of 21 CNRT members were absent in the vote due to internal contradictions within the government. The two smaller government parties, PLP and Khunto, voted in favor of the draft budget. Three days later, Prime Minister Ruak stated that the AMP coalition “no longer exists”. PLP and Khunto wanted to prioritize welfare and efforts towards climate change, while CNRT invested heavily in the development of infrastructure that supports the country’s oil and gas extraction, where among other things CNRT leader Gusmão has great financial interests.
In February 2020, Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak resigned after his tripartite government finally broke down. Three days earlier, CNRT leader Gusmão had stepped down and said he had support to form a new six-party government with, among others, the Democratic Party (PD) and Khunto. In that case, the new government would receive the support of 34 of the 65 MEPs.
In April of that year, however, Taur Matan Ruak re-entered as prime minister to lead the country through the crisis that the corona pandemic entailed. His government approved a $ 250 million rescue package in an effort to slow the spread of the new corona virus, which caused the pandemic.
New four-party government
In June 2020, Prime Minister Ruak presented a four-party government that controlled 41 of the 65 seats in Parliament. The coalition consisted of Ruak’s own party PLP, Fretilin, Khunto and the Democratic Party. Xanana Gusmão’s party CNRT thus went into opposition after failing to get enough support to form a government.
The Ruak government is expected to increase spending to deal with the corona pandemic in a new state budget as well as increase withdrawal from the oil fund for the same reason. The money will go to, among other things, the purchase of medicines and medical equipment.
At the time of the formation of the new four-party coalition, East Timor had 24 confirmed cases of coronary infection, all of which had recovered from the disease.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
FACTS – POLITICS
Democratic Republic of East Timor / Timor Leste / Timor Lorosae
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Francisco Guterres (2017–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak (2018–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Alliance for Change and Development (AMP) 34, Fretilin 23, Democratic Party (PD) 5, Forum for Democratic Development (FDD) 3 (2018)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Fretilin 23, CNRT 22, People’s Liberation Party (PLP) 8, Democratic Party (PD) 7, Khunto 5 (2017)
77% in the 2017 parliamentary elections, 71% in the 2017 presidential elections, 81% in the 2018 parliamentary elections
presidential elections 2022, parliamentary elections 2023