Elections, Independence, Democracy: The 2012 Timorese Electoral Cycle in Context

Rui Graça Feijó


Timor-Leste rose to independence following a path that included three electoral processes organized under the auspices of the UN and has thus got elections imprinted on its own genetic code. After independence, the responsibility for electoral processes – a key aspect of the sovereignty of the Timorese people – was passed to the nation’s authorities, who organized two full rounds of presidential and legislative elections in 2007 and 2012 with the assistance of the international community. This effort constitutes a major element in the process of granting the new regime internal and external legitimacy and at the same time is a response both to citizens’ perception of the political game in order to secure their empowerment and to the call for transparent, internationally acknowledged procedures. Initially, this essay analyses the legal and administrative framework for Timorese elections, bearing these competing requirements in mind. It then focuses on the 2012 elections: first, on the two rounds of presidential elections, including the intricate relationship between presidential candidacies and political parties, and then on the results of the legislative poll, which had a major impact on the political landscape. The final section deals with the challenges that lie ahead for the coming political cycle (2012–2017).

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