Aug 5, 2009


Timor-Leste held presidential elections in the spring of 2007. On April 9, voters chose from a slate of eight candidates. With a voter turnout of almost 82%, the top two finishers were the FRETILIN Party candidate Francisco "Lu-olo" Guterres, who received 28% of the vote, and Jose Ramos-Horta, who received 22% of
the vote after stepping down as Prime Minister to run as an independent candidate with the endorsement of then-President Xanana Gusmao. In the runoff election on May 9, required because the electoral law specifies that a candidate must win a majority, Ramos-Horta won by a landslide, receiving 69% of the vote. The presidential elections experienced some procedural glitches, but were largely free of violence and significant irregularity.

The Government of Timor-Leste held parliamentary elections on June 30, 2007. Observers agree that the elections were generally free and fair. FRETILIN won the most seats in parliament, but no single party won a majority and the various parties did not agree to form a national unity government. On August 6, 2007, President Ramos-Horta asked Xanana Gusmao, the leader of a coalition with a majority of the seats in the parliament (the Alliance with a Parliamentary Majority or AMP), to form a government. Gusmao was sworn in as Prime Minister along with most of the other ministers in the new government on August 8, 2007. Although the June elections proceeded in a largely peaceful atmosphere, violent disturbances broke out in several areas of Dili and the eastern districts of Baucau and Viqueque when the president announced the formation of a new government as FRETILIN partisans took to the streets to protest that they had not been given an opportunity to form a government. The unrest subsided within days, but the affected areas remained tense for several weeks thereafter and FRETILIN continues to assert that the AMP government is unconstitutional although it participates actively in the work of the national parliament.

Upon taking office, the AMP government put the problems of the internally displaced persons, the petitioners, and other issues flowing from the 2006 crisis at the top of its policy agenda. The Ministry of Social Solidarity launched an IDP reintegration program, including resettlement assistance and financial support, that allowed for the gradual closing of the camps. All but a few of the nearly 150,000 IDPs had returned home or been resettled by July 2009. The government also succeeded in resolving the grievances of the military petitioners. Accepting monetary compensation, they closed their encampment in Dili and returned to their homes.

On February 11, 2008 followers of former military police commander and fugitive Alfredo Reinado attacked President Ramos-Horta. Ramos-Horta sustained gunshot injuries and was airlifted to Darwin, Australia, where he underwent medical treatment. Prime Minister Gusmao escaped unharmed after his bodyguards thwarted a separate attack against him the same day as the attack on the president. The president's bodyguards killed Reinado. The government, with the approval of the national parliament, immediately imposed a state of siege which temporarily imposed a curfew, curtailed freedom of assembly, and gave security forces greater latitude for arrests and searches. These emergency measures were scaled back as conditions stabilized over the following weeks. President Ramos-Horta returned to Timor-Leste on April 17. The state of emergency was lifted completely when the remainder of Maj. Reinado’s followers surrendered to authorities on April 29, 2008. The government subsequently succeeded in restoring relative calm and stability throughout the country.


  1. Thanks Totonio for this rundown on recent Timor Leste political happenings.

    I'm a journalist/writer whose website covers many Indian Ocean issues. My recent posts relevant to TE have been: and

    One issue that has little coverage in English are the local elections, which I believe are in October 2009.

    Can you please tell when in October they will start? Particularly those in Baucau - as I have some friends who will be visiting there soon.


  2. Hello Mr. Pete.
    glad you have visited my blog.
    sorry before, I know less about East Timor, because now I continue studying in Indonesia. I apologize but if I already know I will tell you.