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"East Timor’s first free elections are to take place on 30 August. They have been organised by the UN transitional government, which first had to carry out a population census and an electoral registration process, and then conduct a registration of the political parties and other election candidates. However, a more difficult task is that of keeping the peace among a population for whom the devastation that followed the announcement of the results of the UN-sponsored popular consultation in 1999 is still a vivid memory." East Timor Observatory
See also:

Jul 20 OTL: As eleições para a Assembleia Constituinte e os Partidos Políticos  Report
BD: Peoples' Participation - A collection of recent media releases, reports and articles
BD: FRETILIN - Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor / Frente Revolucionaria do Timor Leste Independente
BD: National Council of Timorese Resistance / Conselho Nacional de Resistência Timorense (CNRT)
BD: Pro-autonomy Movements / Pró autonomia Movimentos

We should all understand that Liberation of the Fatherland is only half the objective of independence.
After independence, Liberation of the People constitutes the other half of the objective of independence.
(Xanana Gusmão, 1999)

East Timor Observatory

Ref.: POL04-2001/07/20

Subject: Constituent Assembly Elections and the Political Parties

The Facts


East Timor’s first free elections are to take place on 30 August. They have been organised by the UN transitional government, which first had to carry out a population census and an electoral registration process, and then conduct a registration of the political parties and other election candidates. However, a more difficult task is that of keeping the peace among a population for whom the devastation that followed the announcement of the results of the UN-sponsored popular consultation in 1999 is still a vivid memory. The CNRT, the coalition of forces that led the territory to the doors of independence, has dissolved, to leave the field open for political parties. It did, however, ask all political parties to sign a pact renouncing the violence that has marked the past 25 years and promising to accept the outcome of the election: 14 of the 16 legalised parties signed it. It is the first time that Timorese parties are going to stand in an election, so the results are wholly unpredictable. Voters might prefer to look backward, acknowledging those who, in the past, fought for independence, rather than to look forward. The ballot, the results of which will be announced on 10 September, will elect 88 members of a Constituent Assembly, and designate the makeup of the Transitional Government that will lead the country to independence; the Constituent Assembly itself could become the new State’s first Legislative Assembly.

The facts:

a. Registration

* The first step towards the election had to be the electoral registration process but, because there was no national identification archive, the UN had to conduct a population census (see ETO POL03). The census ended on 22 June, two days later than originally planned, although an extra day was given in Dili (Saturday, 23 June) to allow people working to register.

* 775,602 people registered, that is, 96% of the estimated population (UNTAET, 22-6-01). Of that number, 384,000 were eligible voters of over 17 years of age. In 1999, the number of eligible voters in the territory was 422,575, and approximately 24,000 abroad. This year, only those resident in East Timor, and those who went to the territory for the purpose of registering, were allowed to register.

b. Dissolution of the CNRT and the ‘National Unity Pact’

* At its August 2000 Congress, the CNRT, umbrella organisation for the pro-independence forces, decided to dissolve before the first elections so that the political parties could function independently. However, it recommended that they all sign a National Unity Pact that would bind the parties to adhere to the new State’s fundamental principles, which include: respect for the choice of independence that was expressed in the 1999 vote, non-violence, tolerance, respect for the results of the future elections.

* On 9 June, the CNRT dissolved. S.V. Mello described this move as "politically courageous, intelligent and opportune", and said it was rare in History to find a national liberation movement disbanding and handing over power to the people: "The CNRT has taught the world an important lesson" (UN News, 11-6-01).

* On 8 July, the National Unity Pact was signed at Dili’s Stadium, re-named on the occasion to become the ‘Democracy Stadium’, in front of thousands of Timorese. 14 of the 16 political parties signed the Pact. Only the PNT and Parentil refused to sign. Aliança Araújo justified the PNT’s refusal on grounds that the necessary conditions for reconciliation were still not in place [the PNT is calling for a total amnesty for past crimes] (Lusa, Público 9-7-01).

c. Registration of Parties and Candidates

* Registration of the parties and election candidates was to last from 7 to 24 June, but was extended for a further 3 days. The 16 parties registered put forward about 1,100 candidates (see list of parties) for the 88 seats on the Constituent Assembly – 13 seats for district representatives and 75 for the national representatives. There were 17 independent candidates. The Independent Electoral Commission rejected some applicants. 5 parties put forward candidates for all the districts, and two [PNT and Parentil, the two that refused to sign the Pact] put forward no district candidates at all. 27% of the candidates were women.

* The cabinet ‘ministers’ who wanted to stand for election and campaign, had to resign from the Government. Such was the case for Mari Alkatiri (Economy) and Ana Pessoa (Interior) of FRETILIN, and João Carrascalão (Infrastructures) of UDT.

d. End of the National Council (NC)

* On 14 June, at the Donors’ Conference held in Canberra, S.V.Mello announced the dissolution of the National Council [NC - unelected Parliament] and some changes in the way Government would work after the start of the election campaign on 15 July: "Executive authority will be in the hands of the Transitional Administrator, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1272 and exercised by the Government. As the National Council is to dissolve at the start of the electoral campaign on 15 July, the ‘modified’ government will continue to exercise authority and to develop the essential legislation but I shall only promulgate the most urgent laws. Most legislation will wait for the Constituent or Legislative Assembly" (UNTAET, 14-6-01).

* The decision to dissolve was not welcomed by the NC, which feared a long period of transition Government without a Timorese legislative assembly. The NC eventually hurriedly approved a few laws and gave its provisional consent to 8 more that it did not have time to fully scrutinise. The Government will have to submit these to the new Constituent Assembly.

e. Civic campaign

* It was not until May that the UNDP released funding for aspects of the electoral process such as the civic education campaign. All political parties agreed with the Transitional Administrator to take part in this campaign, in which the Catholic Church and other groups also participated: 600 students from the ISEG (Higher Institute of Economy & Management) went on a 3-day course before setting out to the various districts to work in the campaign; the pro-democracy group from Dili University (UNATIL) made a 14-episode TV drama on the subject of democracy; in the district of Lospalos, where most people do not speak Tetun, a local organisation, TILMO (Timor Lorosa’e Moris) took the campaign activities to 34 villages.

* Some parties, such as FRETILIN and the PSD, held their congresses in early July.

* S.V.Mello said he would be visiting the 13 districts to contribute to the civic education campaign before the start of the electoral campaign. His tour started on 23 June in Liquiça (UNTAET, 19-6-01).

f. Election campaign

* Election campaigning started on 15 July. The UN decided to provide political parties with material support, transport, telecommunications, offices and printing facilities, but no financial support was granted, which led to complaints from 10 of the 16 parties.

* S.V.Mello stated that "the main dangers come from ignorance, disinformation and the confusion they give rise to". "The CPD-RDTL is a group of professional agitators, in the pay of another cause that is not the Timorese cause, and which, numerically, represents no one." (Lusa, 10-7-01). The CPD-RDTL has pressured people in Dili, advising them to flee to the mountains to escape the blood bath they predicting. (Lusa, 12-7-01).

g. District Constitutional Commissions (DCC)

* In preparation for the drafting and approval of the Constitution, a nationwide consultation is being carried by District Constitutional Commissions (DCC) that have been appointed by the UN Administrator. The 13 DCCs, consisting of 5 to 7 members and an adviser and rapporteur, began the consultation exercise on 18 June and are to continue the work until 14 de September. Advisers and rapporteurs were given a 4-day training course in areas such as constitutional systems in different countries, division of authority, drafting the Constitution ... Gathering the views of the people in the districts is being achieved through meetings organised in the districts and sub-districts. Thousands of Timorese have attended the sessions – over 20,000 in 20 days (Lusa, 9-7-01). UNTAET referred to the following as being among the topics being raised for discussion: political systems, the official language, currency, flag, types of punishment for serious crimes, education system, legislation on foreign investment, distribution of oil revenues. Women were well represented at the debates, and contributed topics such as domestic violence, and family welfare legislation (UNTAET, 26-6-01). The reports for each district will be delivered to S.V.Mello.

h. Political parties

16 parties were registered. Some were already known (see ETO POL01 and POL02), while others were formed only recently. Consistent with its rejection of the constitutional process organised by the UN, the CPD-RDTL did not seek legalisation. (Below, the numbers in parenthesis indicate the number of candidates each party is putting forward for district and national seats respectively. The maximum numbers possible are 13 and 75 respectively).

1. APODETI – Timorese Popular Democratic Association (7, 15)
The name is the same as the name of the party that, in 1974-1975, was in favour of autonomy within Indonesia. In 1999, some of its leaders formed a tendency under the name "APODETI pro-referendum". These same people, or at least some of them, are the ones who decided to legalise the party under its old name: Laurentino Gusmão, the group’s representative on the NC, stated that the party would not take part in the election campaign as it had not changed name (STL, 26-6-01). Pat Walsh points out that there was a desire to change the name to ‘Liberal Democrat Party’, but that this too would be made up of former Apodeti members (ACFOA, April 2001).

2. ASDT – Timorese Social Democratic Association (13, 75)
The party’s name, which was FRETILIN’s original name, was resurrected by Francisco Xavier do Amaral (FXA), who was the President of the ephemeral Democratic Republic of East Timor (RDTL), proclaimed by FRETILIN on 28 November 1975. Forced to stand down in 1976 because of a fall out with the military leadership of the resistance, captured and taken to Indonesia, where he lived until recently, FXA wanted to reunify its current leaders, Abílio Araújo and the CPD-RDTL under the FRETILIN banner, and threatened to set up a new party if the reunification did not occur. He got a lot of publicity in April when hundreds of supporters poured into the capital, set up camps, and demonstrated noisily through the streets of Dili in support of the CPD-RDTL, much to the disapproval of Bishop Belo and Xanana Gusmão (STL, 26-4-01).

3. FRETILIN – Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor (13, 75)
This is the party that took on resistance against the Indonesian invaders before the vast majority of the population took up the cause. Its "national" resistance character, in detriment to its "party" component, led to the creation of the CNRM (Maubere Resistance National Council) in 1987, and the departure of Xanana Gusmão and José Ramos Horta in 1989. In spite of the changes in the resistance structure, for many FRETILIN still symbolises the struggle that led to independence.
The party’s President, Lu Olo, a former Falintil commander, stated it had 200,000 supporters, and presented 11,000 signatures for its legalisation, when 500 were enough (Lusa, 7-5-01).

4. KOTA - Klibur Oan Timor Aswain (Association of Timorese Heroes) (13, 75)
One of the small parties that supported the anti-Fretilin and pro-Indonesia alliance in 1975, but that rejected autonomy in Indonesia in 1999. Manuel Tilman, one of its leaders, described the party as being "on the left" on social issues, and "on the right" on the question of defending the authority of the "liurais" (traditional community leaders) (Lusa, 8-5-01). Kota has recently spoken out in support of former guerrillas, orphans and young people in the clandestine resistance (STL, 27-6-01).

5. PARENTIL - Partai Republik Nacional Timor Leste (0, 53)
A new party that has refused to sign the National Unity Pact.

6. PD – Democratic Party (13, 74)
New party created by members of the students’ organisation RENETIL (see ETO POL02). At its congress in 2000, its members were split over whether the movement should become a political party. The party represents the sector of young people who trained in Indonesian universities, and takes a different stand to traditional parties on issues such as the choice of Portuguese as East Timor’s official language.

7. PDC – Christian Democratic Party (8, 75)
New party that emerged from the split in the UDC/PDC.

8. PDM – Maubere Democratic Party (4, 55)
New party, with roots in APODETI.

9. PL – Liberal Party (8, 32)
New Party.

10. PNT – Timorese Nationalist Party (0, 60)
Founded in 1999, it supported autonomy in Indonesia, but accepted the result of the consultation and took part in the NC set up by the UN, in spite of its strong criticism of UNTAET and the CNRT. Its founder, Abílio Araújo, was leader of FRETILIN’s foreign delegation before being expelled because of his business links with former President Suharto’s daughter. He lives in Portugal but is in favour of preferential ties with Indonesia and the adoption of Bahasa Indonesia as the official language. In spite of close relations with Indonesia, the PNT supports the ultra-nationalist (?) CPD-RDTL, a group whose principle position appears to be its anti-UN stance. The PNT did not sign the National Unity Pact.

11. PPT - Timorese People’s Party (12, 71)
New party. Adopted the name of a party announced in May 2000 by Hermínio da Costa da Silva, number 3 in the leadership of the pro-Indonesia militias, refugee in West Timor. Its president, Jacob Xavier, has lived in Portugal for the past 30 years and claims to be related to some of Europe’s royal families.

12. PSD – Social Democrat Party (13, 75)
Founded in 2000 by Mário Carrascalão, former UDT and Governor of East Timor (82-92) during Indonesia’s domination, as a centre alternative, between FRETILIN and UDT. It has attracted former leaders of the two former main parties.

13. PST – Timorese Socialist Party (3, 75)
Advocates Marxism as an analytical tool and communism as its ideal. Has recently often played a mediating role in labour disputes.

14. PTT – Timorese Labour Party (5, 33)*
Formed in 1974. Another one of the small parties that in 1975 was part of the anti-Fretilin alliance, but anti-Indonesia in 1999.

15. UDC-PDC – Christian Democratic Union/Christian Democrat Party (7, 75)*
Emerged in 1998 in Portugal from a split in the UDT. Took part in the Congress, along with FRETILIN and UDT, at which the CNRT was set up.

16. UDT – Timorese Democratic Union (12, 72)*
Leading historic party in opposition with FRETILIN. Its leaders who remained in East Timor after the invasion collaborated with Indonesia. The exiles, including João Carrascalão, who is the party’s current President, joined FRETILIN in 1986 in the Nationalist Convergence.

i. After the elections

The results are to be announced on 10 September. On 15 September, the Constituent Assembly is to start work drafting the Constitution, which should be approved 90 days later by a minimum of 60 of the Assembly’s total 88 members. Then, in line with whatever the Constitution stipulates, elections for the new President of the Republic will take place, followed by legislative elections, if the Constituent Assembly is not to take on the functions of a Parliament.

j. New Transition Government

* The last transition Government before independence will be entirely Timorese, when the results of the election are known: "this Government will probably include most, if not all of the parties represented on the Assembly and possibly personalities that are not represented", "I support the formation of a Government based on the spirit of the National Unity Pact that I encourage the parties to sign", said S.V.Mello (Lusa, 28-6-01).

k. Independence

* Initially scheduled for the first quarter of 2002, independence is likely to be delayed. One reason for the delay could be security problems. The armed forces of East Timor (FDTL) are still in the early stages of training and a precipitated withdrawal of the international forces after independence would be worrisome before Indonesia has completely disarmed and disbanded the militias.


1. The cumbersome UN machine succeeded in conducting the electoral process up to the start of the election campaign. Much, however, still has to be done: the civic and electoral information and education process needs to be broadened to prevent manipulation and rumours. The UN should facilitate, but the Timorese themselves have to be the leading actors.

2. In the 1999 Popular Consultation process, the only wholly peaceful day was voting day itself. In spite of the all the previous violence and threats regarding the future, the population displayed immense maturity and dignity. Large numbers of Timorese went out to vote early, fully aware that the Indonesian forces, responsible for security, were not to be trusted.

3. The presence of UN forces makes the situation different. Nonetheless, given the past experience, the current instability in Indonesia, the continued activities in West Timor of militias, which enjoy support from military and civilians, both Indonesian and Timorese, who still do not regard independence as an irreversible fact, there is no guarantee of wholly problem-free election. Any incidents that occur are expected to be isolated, and the work of provocateurs pulling strings from a distance. Small parties without representation but working within alliances could be used to contest the results. The 1975 anti-Fretilin alliance used that tactic before.

4. The problems that have arisen recently are so numerous that there would be no shortage of motives for conflict: justice and reconciliation, the language question, property claims where supporting documentation does not exist or was stolen during the occupation ... are just a few. Their resolution will require an enormous capacity for dialogue, which will be affected by whether the elections give one party winning an absolute majority or result in a need for a coalition.

Observatory for the monitoring of East Timor's transition process a programme by the 'Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere'
Coordinator: Cláudia Santos 
Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE -  1069-069     Lisboa - Portugal
ph.: 351 1 317 28 60  -  fax: 351 1 317 28 70  -  e-mail:

Observatório Timor Leste  Updated Jan 25
Duas Organizações Não Governamentais portuguesas, a COMISSÃO PARA OS DIREITOS DO POVO MAUBERE (CDPM) e o grupo ecuménico A PAZ É POSSÍVEL EM TIMOR LESTE que, desde o início da década de oitenta, se solidarizam com a causa do Povo de Timor Leste, tomaram a decisão de criar o OBSERVATÓRIO TIMOR LESTE. A vocação do Observatório Timor Leste é, no quadro das recentes alterações do regime de Jacarta face a Timor Leste, o acompanhamento, a nível internacional, do processo negocial e, no interior do território, do inevitável período de transição que se anuncia.
correio electrónico:  URL:

East Timor Observatory  Updated Jan 25
ETO was set up by two Portuguese NGOs - the Commission for the Rights of the Maubere People (CDPM) and the ecumenical group Peace is Possible in East Timor,  which have been involved in East Timor solidarity work since the early eighties. The aim of the Observatory was to monitor East Timor's transition process, as well as the negotiating process and its repercussions at international level, and the developments in the situation inside the territory itself.
E-mail:  Homepage:

Observatoire Timor-Oriental  Updated Jan 25
Deux Organisations Non Gouvernementales portugaises, la ‘Commission pour les Droits du Peuple Maubere’ et l’association oecuménique "La Paix est Possible au Timor Oriental", qui se solidarisent avec la cause du peuple du Timor Oriental depuis le début des années 80, ont pris la décision de créer un OBSERVATOIRE TIMOR ORIENTAL. La vocation de cet observatoire est d’accompagner le processus de transition du Timor Oriental, aussi bien le processus de négociation que ses répercussions au niveau international et l’évolution de la situation à l’intérieur du territoire.
courrier électronique:  URL:

See also:

Jul 20 OTL: As eleições para a Assembleia Constituinte e os Partidos Políticos  Report added July 26
"As primeiras eleições livres de Timor Leste devem realizar-se em 30 de Agosto. A sua organização pertence ao Governo transitório das Nações Unidas que tiveram de realizar o recenseamento da população e o recenseamento eleitoral, registo dos partidos políticos e dos candidatos. Mais difícil é assegurar a paz a uma população que tem a recordação viva da destruição que se seguiu os resultados da consulta popular organizada pelas NU em 1999." Observatório Timor Leste

BD: Peoples' Participation - A collection of recent media releases, reports and articles

BD: FRETILIN - Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor / Frente Revolucionaria do Timor Leste Independente - A collection of recent speeches, documents, statements, news and reports

BD: National Council of Timorese Resistance / Conselho Nacional de Resistência Timorense (CNRT) - A collection of recent speeches, statements, news and reports

BD: Pro-autonomy Movements / Pró autonomia Movimentos - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news

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