Politics / Timor-Leste votes for change as opposition sweeps elections

By: Thomas Brent - Posted on: May 30, 2018 | Current Affairs

Timor-Leste has voted in a new government, with the opposition coalition Alliance of Change for Progress (AMP) sweeping to a decisive victory and ending months of political deadlock

Leader of the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction Xanana Gusmao shows his inked finger after casting his vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Dili, Timor-Leste

The results, which were certified yesterday despite the election taking place earlier this month, show that AMP won 49.6% of the votes, securing 34 of the 65 seats in parliament. It is an emphatic victory for the AMP coalition, which includes national icon Xanana Gusmão’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) and two other parties

It brings to an end a political impasse that resulted from last year’s election, which saw outgoing party Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (abbreviated from the Portuguese as Fretilin) claim a slim victory, but left Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and his minority government unable to push through much-needed reform policies.

AMP official Fidelis Magalhaes told ABC that the result is critical to progress in the maritime sovereign state.

“East Timor must have a government that stands and comes from an absolute majority in Parliament,” he said.

Despite being rich in oil, Timor-Leste has struggled with poverty. According to World Population Review, “Nearly 37% of Timor-Leste’s population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day, and 50% of the population is illiterate.”

Earlier this year, Timor-Leste struck a historic deal with Australia which granted it majority ownership of offshore gas fields believed to be worth as much as $65 billion, marking the end of a 16-year legal dispute between the two nations over their lack of a maritime boundary.

Gusmão, who was Timor-Leste’s first president after it gained independence from Indonesia in 2002, acted as chief negotiator for the tiny nation and was hailed for his role in pushing through the deal.

The leader has been intrinsically linked to East Timorese politics for decades and served prison time for his outspoken separatist drive while the country was still under Indonesian control.

Despite AMP’s victory, it is not yet clear who will take up the role of prime minister.