Taur Matan Ruak to be new President of Timor-Leste
Report from Peter Murphy
The presidential elections in Timor-Leste, conducted over two rounds on March 17 and April 16, 2012, resulted in Taur Matan Ruak, former commander of the armed forces, winning by a margin of 61 per cent to 39 per cent over FRETILIN candidate Francisco Guterres ‘Lu-Olo’. To many this was a surprise result, since most expected a close result. The new President will be sworn in on May 20, the 10th anniversary of the handover of sovereignty.
Taur Matan Ruak was formally an independent candidate, but in the last few weeks of the second round he was clearly the candidate of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. While FRETILIN members were clearly downcast at the outcome, FRETILIN had succeeded in advancing its final vote by 8 per cent, compared to the 2007 presidential run-off.
In the first round, incumbent President Jose Ramos Horta was eliminated with 17.5 per cent of the vote, with Lu-Olo leading the results at 28.8 per cent, and Ruak coming in second at 25.7 per cent. La Sama, who came in just behind Horta with 17.3 per cent, also demonstrated strong support. These four candidates accounted for 89.3 per cent of the total vote.
Timor-Leste Presidential Election Round 1, March 17, 2012
Candidate Total Vote Percentage
Manuel Tilman (KOTA) 7,226 1.56
Taur Matan Ruak (Independent) 119,462 25.71
Francisco Guterres ‘Lu-Olo’ (FRETILIN) 133,635 28.76
Rogerio Lobato (Independent) 16,219 3.49
Maria do Ceu Lopes da Silva (Independent) 1,843 0.40
Angelita Maria Francisca Pires (Undertim) 1,742 0.37
Jose Ramos Horta (Independent) 81,231 17.48
Francisco Gomes (split of ASDT) 3,531 0.76
Jose Luis Guterres (Frente-Mudanca) 9,235 1.99
Abilio Araujo (PNT) 6,294 1.35
Lucas da Costa (Independent) 3,862 0.83
Fernando La Sama de Araujo (PD) 80,381 17.30
There were 626,503 registered voters, of whom 489,933 voted, a participation rate of 78.20 per cent. Of these 464,611 made valid votes, 94.84 per cent.
Timor-Leste Presidential Election Round 2, April 16, 2012
Candidate Total Vote Percentage
Taur Matan Ruak 275,441 61.23
Francisco Guterres ‘Lu-Olo’ 174,386 38.77
In Round 2, there were 627,295 registered voters, and 449,827 valid votes, a lower turnout at 73.12 per cent.
After the first round, President Horta and Parliamentary President La Sama (Democratic Party PD) held a joint media conference to indicate that they would work together to influence the outcome of the second round. President Horta also indicated that he would play a role in the parliamentary elections, now set for July 7, 2012, but did not spell out what he would do.
In fact, both figures were very unhappy with the decision taken by Prime Minister Gusmao to support Taur Matan Ruak, as each had expected Gusmao’s support for themselves.
In the counting for Round 1, there was some controversy in Baucau and Manatuto, leading to a strong protest by FRETILIN and a call for a recount in Baucau. This was strongly resisted by the electoral agency, the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration (STAE), but supported by the oversight body, the National Electoral Commission (CNE). In the end the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered the recount, which STAE conducted under protest. The recount led to an increase in the FRETILIN vote by 3,000, a 10 per cent shift.
FRETILIN and the Democratic Party had protested about late night visits to STAE by Prime Minister Gusmao on March 15 and 16. President Horta had also criticised this, but gave the Prime Minister ‘the benefit of the doubt’.
The campaign for Round 2 was marked by the alignment of the defeated parties around Lu-Olo, and the lack of support for Ruak. However, while the key voter blocs of Horta and La Sama were mobilised in the Districts behind Lu-Olo, neither Horta nor La Sama themselves made strong public statements to this effect, nor did they personally attend a Lu-Olo rally. This phase however, was also marked by the strong personal support of Gusmao for Ruak, with the Prime Minister appearing on his banners and posters, and attending several rallies.
FRETILIN organised a rally for Lu-Olo in Maubara, in the Liquica District, on April 11, with about 700 attending, and strong speeches for Lu-Olo from the Horta and La Sama District coordinators. Such a rally was not possible in 2007, because a pro-Gusmao militia commanded by Railos operated in the area. Gusmao reacted by holding small meetings in Liquica on April 14 and 15, with Railos and ‘petitioners’ – some of the rebel soldiers from the 2006 crisis.
The campaign concluded with a two-hour television debate between the candidates on the evening of April 13, in which Ruak fumbled early and many felt that Lu-Olo gave a convincing presentation. There is no ‘worm’ in Timor-Leste election debates, and also no real polling is possible. However, the broad expectation was for a close vote on the 16th.
But instead there was a decisive win for Ruak, who also won 11 of the 13 Districts, including Dili, which has 124,000 voters. Lu-Olo won the second largest town, Baucau, and Viqueque, and compared to 2007, the FRETILIN vote recovered in western Districts.
Clearly most of the Horta and La Sama votes from Round 1 went to Ruak, despite the apparent stance of their leaders. Perhaps just 6 per cent of this bloc went to Lu-Olo, along with the votes from Lobato, Tilman, Freitas and Pires.
‘Peace and stability’ were uppermost in voters’ concerns, and after the result many people suggested that the voters had chosen the outcome with the lesser chance of violence – a calculation that it was safer to vote for Ruak.
As well, there was a wave of reports to FRETILIN of intimidation of voters prior to election day and vote substitution, particularly in western Districts.
FRETILIN accepted the outcome, and has started its mobilisation and campaign for the July parliamentary elections.
The Presidency is an important institution, to help balance the Executive led by the Prime Minister, and it has the role of asking the leader of the party or coalition with the most votes in the parliamentary election to try to form a government. The President can also veto new legislation, dissolve parliament and call elections in certain circumstances, and made acts of clemency on pardon for prisoners.
Twenty-six parties are going to contest the parliamentary elections, and a party needs 3 per cent of the vote to obtain representation in the 65-seat house.
FRETILIN can expect to win the most votes, as it did in 2007, on the basis of the first round of the presidential elections. If it can achieve an effective alliance with either or both of PD and ASDT, it could be the largest part of a coalition with close to 50 per cent of the vote.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Gusmao will work hard to achieve a formal coalition with PD and ASDT before the election, and thus have his CNRT party as the largest coalition, and continue to be Prime Minister to the exclusion of FRETILIN.
One question now is just what is the CNRT vote. With CNRT support, Ruak achieved 25.7 per cent in round 1. In 2007, with CNRT support, Horta achieved 24 per cent. But Horta himself won 17.5 percent this time, without CNRT support. As well, Ruak won a significant number of votes from FRETILIN supporters. So it is quite hard to predict the real CNRT vote at this time, because Ruak will not be a candidate on July 7.
The ASDT President, Xavier do Amaral, died just before the first presidential election, and it is possible that ASDT will collapse without him. However, it is possible that Jose Ramos Horta will make a bid to take his place, and then make a bid to become Prime Minister himself.
FRETILIN’s candidate for Prime Minister will be its Secretary-General Mari Alkatiri.
Unlike the Presidential race, the parliamentary campaign will focus much more on policies, and the problems of wastage, corruption, and poor management will work against the Gusmao government.
Given the profound need for Timor-Leste to move away from its violent past, FRETILIN is hoping that the politics this time will encourage convergence into a sharing of power in a coalition government, including Gusmao, rather than sharp division and exclusion. The new President will have an important role at that moment.
It must be of great concern that a pattern of systematic election manipulation has emerged this time, but it can be countered with determined political leadership and continued training support by the international community.
he SEARCH Foundation Election Observer Mission – four people in Round 1 and five people in Round 2 – reported a peaceful atmosphere on both voting days at locations they visited, as well as small technical anomalies.
For the second round, it also reported some more serious incidents which indicated intimidation.
So far 19 people have volunteered to take part in the SEARCH Foundation Election Observer Mission for the parliamentary elections.
- Peter Murphy