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East Timor: Notes on the Presidential Elections

The election campaign in East Timor lasted for 15 days and the voters are now ready to elect a new president. What happened during the campaign period? NGO La'o Hamutuk sent questionnaires to candidates but didn’t receive a reply:

Nearly two weeks ago, La’o Hamutuk circulated a questionnaire to all the Presidential candidates and their campaigns, asking for their views on issues important to the future of Timor-Leste. Although several candidates told us they would respond, in the end, we did not get any answer other than printed campaign brochures.

We had planned to tabulate the candidates’ responses to inform the voters, but the lack of response makes this impossible.

Below are some of the issues which the NGO wanted the candidates to address:

- Today, Timor-Leste depends on imports. How do you think we can increase local production to reduce import dependency?
- Nearly 80% of Timorese people live by agriculture. What can be done to strengthen the agricultural economy?
- Perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the Indonesian occupation live freely with impunity. What do you think about this?
- How can Timor-Leste find the balance between diplomacy with Indonesia and the legal obligation to achieve accountability for 1975-1999 crimes? What is the President’s responsibility for truth, justice and accountability? How will you use your power to grant pardons and clemency?
- Timor-Leste plans to borrow money from international lenders. What do you think about this?

Election rally. Photo from Facebook page of Nurima Ribeiro Alkatiri

Campaign violations were reported after only five days of campaigning, according to the election body:

- Violation of freedom of propaganda
- Use of State owned vehicles during campaigns
- Involvement of public servants in the campaign
- Racist language, threats, and attacks against other candidate’s private life
- Use of religious symbols during campaign
- Use of sample ballot papers in campaigns
- Mobilisation/involvement of children in the campaign.

Most of these violations were resolved as witnessed by the peaceful atmosphere in which the electoral campaigns took place. In some cases, the candidates themselves intervened directly in order to maintain the peaceful environment

Election boat parade. Photo from Facebook page of Rui Araújo

Di'ak Ka Lae? writes about the campaign rally of Dr Lu Olo, one of the presidential candidates:

If the size of these rallies matters, then Dr Lu Olo's closing campaign in Tasi Tolu today provides the clearest indication yet as to who will be moving into the Palacio in Aitarak Laran comes 20th of May 2012, where Timor-Leste will also celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Restoration of the Democratic Republic. Dr Lu Olo's rally today eclipsed that of his closest competitor, former army chief, Taur Matan Ruak, where he also counted on Xanana's somewhat “unplanned” appearance to publicly endorse him.

Some are not comfortable with the military symbolism used by candidate Taur Matan Ruak:

Taur Matan Ruak's choice of military camouflage as his trademark appears to be drawing a lot of controversy, even suspicion from some quarters. The military camouflage is definitely a good campaign strategy, which serves to remind people of Taur's past contribution as commander of the guerrilla force and chief of F-FDTL

However, although the use of military symbolism appear innocent, I fear that this is not the best way to do things. Glorifying militarism in a society with a long history of violence, committed by the (Indonesian) military cannot be good. Look around Timor-Leste and you see the military everywhere, guns, uniforms, and facilities.

The Prime Minister appeared in the rally of candidate Taur Matan Ruak. Photo from Facebook page of Jose Antonio Belo

What did the candidates promise to voters? Translation provided by Di'ak Ka Lae?

Manuel Tilman (number 1 on the ballot) has promised the people of Same that if elected, he would build a seaport and an airport in Same. He also promised to establish Timor-Leste's first air force as F-FDTL's commander in chief.

Incumbent Dr Jose Ramos-Horta cancelled his door-to-door campaign in Dili to pay his respect to the late Xavier do Amaral.

Francisco Gomes of Partidu Liberta Povu Aileba carried out his door-to-door campaign in Ailok Laran, distributing his campaign paraphernalia in the process.

José Luis Guterres “Lugu” campaigned in Gleno, Ermera where he talked about development in science and technology. He appealed to the people not to elect a head of state who is a flip-flopper, and who would rather defend the interests of other countries.

Fernando Araujo ‘Lasama’ was in Manufahi where he promised to strengthen relationship with other countries, specially the near neighbours.

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