So there was an election in Timor-Leste today, not that you'd have noticed because it got very little attention in the international press. In the run up to the presidential elections, a vote for what is largely a ceremonial role, I was bookmarking and sharing lots of stories as and when they popped up. This time, however, there weren't really any stories to share.
Credit to them, Meagan Weymes and Simon Roughneen put out a handful of articles between them, but that was about it. This is the election that matters, the one that's going to define the next few years in Timor-Leste, but apparently three votes in the same year is enough to turn off most news outlets.
But despite a rather uninspiring effort by the international media, an election was held and people did vote. From what I've read, the election was generally peaceful and transparent and free of irregularities. It looks like it went off without a hitch. I didn't see any reports of things getting out of hand. All of this is great news, but as we know, holding free and fair elections is only one part of a country consolidating its democracy.
As for the results, it looks like Gusmao's CNRT is ahead. The latest count, according to CIJTL, has CNRT on 97,576 and FRETILIN on 86,359 votes. There were 21 parties in the election and the size of the electorate is 645,624 people. I would expect turnout to be about 80%.
The latest percentages posted up from TVTL (as of 11 pm) were as follows:
1 UDT 1.04 %
2 PR 0.92 %
3 PDN 1.82 %
4 AD 0.58 %
5 PUN 0.71 %
6 PD 10.11 %
7 PTD 0.56 %
8 PSD 2.56 %
9 Frente Modanca 3.80 %
10 P.KHUNTO 3.15 %
11 CNRT 35.62 %
12 Fretilin 30.25 %
13 PDP 0.40 %
14 Bloku Proklamador 0.73 %
15 ASDT 2.01 %
16 PST 2.45 %
17 PDC 0.21 %
18 PDL 0.43 %
19 APMT 0.89 %
20 UNDERTIM 1.72 %
21 PLPA – PDRT 0.81 %
If we look at the above, only five parties have currently crossed the 3% threshold to be eligible for seats. I'm not sure what happened to Fernanda Borges' National Union Party, but with 0.71% of the vote so far, that looks like a disaster compared to the 4.55% they got last time (assuming these figures are accurate).
For comparison, the results of the election in 2007 were as follows:
Of note is that in 2007 there were seven parties past the threshold. Also, Frente Modanca is a party that split from FRETILIN last year and is led by José Luís Guterres.
Here are the latest official figures from STAE:
319,781 votes counted: CNRT 111,781 (35.74%) FRETILIN 97,442 (31.16%) PD 31,193 (9.97%) FM 11,372 (3.64%) Khunto 9346 (2.99%) (LUSA)
I'm not entirely sure which figures above are the most recent, but they are generally consistent with four or five parties looking likely to make it across the threshold and no party having a majority, even after the votes for parties that don't get 3% are excluded.
What happens now is anyone's guess. It looks like neither FRETILIN nor CNRT is going to get a majority.
It's probably going to be a bit of a mad scramble from here on in and we're left with three likely scenarios, as Damien Kingsbury writes:
To start, no single party is expected to receive a simple majority of the vote, so the next government will likely be a coalition, as it was after the 2007 elections.
There are three possible post-election scenarios. The first is that something like the current government is able to be formed around CNRT, the party of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. This implies business as usual.
The second option is that Fretilin will be able to form a majority coalition as a result of current coalition partners' disaffection with Gusmao's highly personalised leadership style. This would likely see a significant shift in economic policy towards a more conservative fiscal strategy of keeping spending within the scope of receipts from petroleum fund investments.
But, perhaps, a Fretilin-led return to government, along with parties that had abandoned Gusmao, could also see the fomenting of anti-Fretilin sentiment of the type that led to the bloody and destructive events of 2006. This is where East Timor's democratic consolidation might find its real test.
The third possible option is that neither Gusmao's CNRT or Fretilin are able to form a coalition. In this case, the recently elected (pro-Gusmao) president, Taur Matan Ruak, should revert to that part of the country's constitution which allows for the appointment of the prime minister from the party with the most votes but without necessarily either holding an absolute majority or being able to form a majority coalition.
This third scenario would very likely lead to a major political confrontation and, quite possibly, military intervention. Some senior military figures have long viewed electoral politics with suspicion, if not disdain.
Photo by UNDP/Flickr.