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Dynamics of Democracy in Timor-Leste

Dynamics of Democracy in Timor-Leste: The Birth of a Democratic Nation, 1999-2012

Rui Graça Feijó
Series Editor William A. Callahan
Series: Emerging Asia
Copyright Date: 2016
Stable URL:
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  • Book Info
    Dynamics of Democracy in Timor-Leste
    Book Description:

    The Indonesian province of Timor-Leste made international news when it decided to break away from Indonesia in 1999. The decision sparked deadly rampages by pro-integrationist militias, violence that only abated when the UN sent a force to maintain peace and help ease the way to actual independence. This book details the political history of Timor-Leste, both preceding and following the declaration of independence, and it uses the events, consequences, and lessons of that period to help us understand what to expect for similar experiments in democracy building elsewhere in the world.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2633-8
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. 7-10)
  3. Foreword (pp. 11-18)
    Nancy Bermeo

    Dynamics of Democracy in Timor-Leste: The Birth of a Democratic Nation, 1999-2012presents a vivid and panoramic view of an emerging country’s attempt to build both a new state and a new democracy simultaneously. Though state-building is, predictably, still underway, Timor-Leste has made remarkable strides towards the construction of a viable democracy. Democratic institutions, such as unions, courts, parties and a free press, remain underdeveloped, but Timor-Leste’s freely elected governments and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of assembly, association and worship are vibrant enough to place the country above the minimal threshold for democracy (Freedom House 2014; Kingsbury 2014b: 187, 193-195). The...

  4. Preface Revisiting a success story with critical eyes (pp. 19-26)
  5. Acknowledgements (pp. 27-30)
  6. 1 Democracy in the 21st century Lineages and configurations of an impure concept (pp. 31-76)

    This book is about democracy, and how a small, poor country, ravaged over several decades by social strife verging on genocide at the hands of external powers, rose from the ashes in 1999 to embrace an adventure guided by the ambition to fulfil the golden promises of this most elusive political concept. To embark on an analysis of such a gigantic task, one needs to be equipped with a precise notion of what does democracy actually stand for at the beginning of the 21st century, and what can be substantively presumed to be covered by the word democracy, thus avoiding...

  7. 2 Assessing the odds Could Timor-Leste become a democracy? (pp. 77-132)

    Oslo, Norway, 10 December 1996. In his acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize that had been bestowed upon him and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dili, Dom Carlos Ximenes Belo, José Ramos-Horta publicly reiterated the Timorese Resistance plan for the territory agreed a few years before which envisaged a three-step process lasting up to 12 years before the issue of self-determination would be directly addressed, and added some elements of their common ‘vision for our country’s future’ should the option for independence prevail, including: ‘We will endeavour to build a strong democratic state based on the rule of law...

  8. 3 Constitutionalism old and new in the ‘UN Kingdom’ of Timor-Leste (pp. 133-170)

    Over the last quarter of a century, constitutionalism has been an important feature of the Southeast Asian political landscape. The notion of constitutionalism encompasses two different (although sometimes associated) meanings. In a narrow, mostly juridical sense, constitutionalism can be regarded as the process through which formal constitutions are drafted (or redrafted). It contains an institutional dimension most often supported in specifically designed state bodies, as well as the expectation that the emerging charter will frame the life of the polity in the future. However, this term can also be understood as a significant step in the adoption of ‘constitutional policies’,...

  9. 4 Elections in a young democracy Popular voice and control (pp. 171-204)

    In the first half of 2012, Timor-Leste organized the second series of national elections since its independence ten years earlier.² Elections have been a vital part of this nation’s recent history since the UN-sponsored referendum of 30 August 1999 – the first election in the land to be held in accordance to internationally accepted standards (Smith 2004a)³ – in which the overwhelming majority of its people (officially 78.5%, with a turnout of 98.6% of all registered electors) voted in favour of ending its 24-year-long incorporation into Indonesia, thus paving the way for independence (Martin 2001; Pereira Gomes 2001; Cardoso Gomes...

  10. 5 Semi-presidentialism with ‘independent’ presidents Political inclusiveness and democratic consolidation (pp. 205-244)

    In the first years after the IndonesianAnschluss, Nicolau Lobato rose to the status of undisputed leader of the Timorese Resistance, replacing the controversial first President of the Republic proclaimed on 28 November 1975, Francisco Xavier do Amaral. After Nicolau was shot dead on the last day of December 1978, a few years elapsed before Xanana could rise to a similar position in the Conference of March 1981. Xanana’s leadership started inside one political party (FRETILIN) and its armed branch (FALINTIL), but slowly grew beyond those frontiers to embrace emerging sectors of the population that were increasingly turning against Indonesian...

  11. 6 Grassroots democracy Building a decentralized state where worlds meet (pp. 245-278)

    On 20 May 2002, Timor-Leste emerged into independent statehood armed with the basic instruments of its administration grounded in the long historical process of creation of a unified and centralized polity, as well as a constitution that embodied the principles of decentralization and called for a sweeping reform (Farram 2010: 1-2). The central administration was unevenly developed and the spread of the public administration away from the capital into the rest of the country, where more than 80% of the population lived, was thinly structured. The effort necessary to build an actual national state administration inspired by the model enshrined...

  12. Epilogue After 2012: New challenges to the consolidation of Democracy (pp. 279-290)

    On 1 January 2013, Timor-Leste initiated a march on its own feet alone. The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), the last of the special missions which started in 1999, as well as the International Stabilization Force (ISF) convened in the wake of the 2006 crisis, departed then, heralding a new phase in this new nation’s political life. The country has responded positively to this relevant change and maintains a stable political situation. The fact that in 2012 Timor-Leste organized presidential and legislative elections considered free and fair and to comply with international standards, symbolizing the regular functioning of...

  13. List of acronyms (pp. 291-292)
  14. References (pp. 293-324)
  15. Index (pp. 325-336)