Friday, May 19, 2006

(East Timor Problems) Undemocratic voting methods

During the second day of the Fretilin Party Congress, it was announced that the method of voting to decide the next Secretary General would be a show of hands rather than a secret ballot. The only person standing in competition with Mari Alkatiri (Jose Luis Guterres, Timor’s current Ambassador to the United Nations and USA) withdrew his nomination in protest. Despite the fact that Guterres probably did not have the numbers to win, the fact that an ostensibly democratic party would change their voting method to an undemocratic one has shocked not only Daniel and me but also my Timorese colleagues. It is clear that the current political elites wish to retain their positions and will resort to undemocratic measures to do so. It is also worrying considering the current security situation and general distrust of the government. I fear this will only worsen the situation.

The Director of my NGO received an invitation to the Congress. I was stunned to see the invitation was written in Portuguese and English only, languages spoken by less than 5% of the population. Whatever happened to the predominant and almost universally spoken national language Tetum? For me, this was another clear example of the ruling party’s arrogance and lack of connection with the people of Timor.

Alkatiri was re-elected Secretary General of Fretilin, meaning he will retain his position as Prime Minister if Fretilin wins the next election. Fretilin seems divided while the people of Timor certainly are.

If anything untoward goes down in the streets of Dili in the coming days, weeks and months leading to the general elections in May 2007, the ruling party is partly to blame for not listening to the public’s discontent and manipulating party rules to ensure the outcome they (the Fretilin status quo) wanted.

Tomorrow is not only Timor’s Restoration of Independence Day (RID) but also Fretilin’s 32nd anniversary. I had no idea why the 20th of May was chosen as RID but now I know.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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