By Max Lane
Timor Leste’s third parliamentary election since the restoration of independence in 2002 was held on July 7. The largest of the incumbent parties, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), almost secured an absolute majority of parliamentary seats. It has formed a coalition government with two smaller parties, the Democratic Party (PD) and Frenti-Mudansa (FM). Fretilin was the second largest party and will be the opposition again in parliament.
CNRT outpolled Fretilin in this election, reversing the relationship at the time of the 2007 election. CNRT received 36.7% of the vote, winning 30 seats out of 65. In 2007, CNRT received just 24 percent of the vote and 18 seats. This year, Fretilin won 29.9% of the vote and 25 seats. PD won 10.3% of the vote and eight seats, while FM won 3.1% and two seats.
Voter turnout declined from 80.5% in 2007 to 74.8%. Twenty percent of the vote went to 17 parties that were unable to achieve the 3% threshold legislated in the first Fretilin-dominated parliament. If there had been no threshold, there would be 10 parties represented in the parliament rather than four. All of the smaller parties that had contested the 2007 elections dropped in their vote, except for the very small Socialist Party of Timor (PST), which bucked the trend and increased its vote four times up to 2.4% — but still less than the minimum 3% it was targeting.