East Timor Politics


In August 2001, a popular consultation was convened again. More than 91% of the voters turned out to vote, this time to elect the members of a Constituent Assembly that was to write a new Constitution and establish the framework for the elections that would lead to total independence. Finally, the first Constitution was signed on March 22, 2002, and presidential elections were held on April 14. On May 20, Xanana Gusmao was elected President of East Timor and the Constituent Assembly became Parliament. The UN It will continue to be present in East Timor until the security and stability of the nascent state are assured, and to advise the new government in matters of democracy, justice, legality, security, and so on.


The oil conflict

There are two major current problems in the country. The first is its serious economic problems: we already mentioned that East Timor is one of the poorest countries in the world and that it has not been able to enter foreign trade in a strong way. Without investment, there is no way for the country to progress and the State, with the little money it has, still has enormous infrastructure costs to face.

But there is another alternative. In the Timor Sea, there is an oil and natural gas field with an estimated value of 30 trillion dollars. However, these reserves are also claimed by Australia. A conflict of this magnitude would generally be decided in the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for Maritime Laws but, “coincidentally”, but the Australian government had withdrawn from these international jurisdictions (only in matters related to maritime limits) shortly before Timor declared its independence. It was possible to achieve that the profits from the exploitation of one of the natural gas reserves were divided in half. The rest of the exploited deposits pay to Australia and this one shields itself in a temporary agreement signed in the 2002. The reality is that most of the deposits are closer to the Timorese coast.

Political and Social Instability: The Crisis of 2006

The second problem is internal: there are still many conflicts between different Timorese groups and this year there was a major clash. The conflict arose because some East Timor military soldiers boasted that they were discriminated against by East Timorese for being from the West. Those from the East were the ones who had formed the greatest resistance against Indonesia during the invasion while the Westerners were considered less opponents (probably because they were in greater contact with the border). Thus, on February 25, 600 soldiers escaped from their barracks and were delegates of duties. From there, the violent events began on April 24 by looting a business in an East Timorese from the East. This group of ex-soldiers were led by Alfredo Reihnado, a major in the army, who called for the resignation of Prime Minister Alkatiri and continued with street violence.

Even after the intervention of Australia, Portugal, Malaysia and Indonesia, the riots continued and spread at the civil level. The country was mired in senseless tribal fighting, the motive for which is almost unknown. Finally, Prime Minister Alkatiri had to resign and was replaced by the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta 23 lives were lost, hundreds of homes and political stability, showing that it is a state with a long way to go.

President Gusmão decided to call new presidential elections, the second round of which, held on May 9, declared Ramos Horta the winner with more than 70% of the votes, assuming the post of President the following May 20. Gusmão was left with the position of prime minister.


Located between Australia and Indonesia, the territory of Timor-Leste comprises the eastern part of the island of Timor, the dependency of Oecusse, located towards the northwest of the island; the island of Atauro in the north, and the islet of Yaco, to the east. Of volcanic origin, the island’s relief is mountainous, covered with dense jungles. Its tropical rainy climate favors an important hydrographic network. The southern area is flat and suitable for cultivation. Agriculture is the base of its export economy, with the production of copra, coffee, cotton, rice, tobacco and sandalwood mainly.

According to Countryaah, East Timor has 924,642 residents.


East Timor is considered the poorest nation in the world: It has an annual GDP per capita of U $ D 400 (the lowest in the world), unemployment and underemployment of 50% and 48% of the population that is below the limit of poverty. Of the annual Gross Domestic Product, it is calculated that 25.4% comes from agriculture (coffee, rice, corn, potatoes, soybeans and bananas), 17.2% from industry (printing, soap and textile factories) and the remaining 57.4%, from services. Now it faces a series of problems in its attempt to rebuild the economy after the devastation suffered by the country in seeking its independence.

Much of the modestly productive agricultural sector, originally based on subsistence crops, was converted under international supervision into crops for export. This project eventually failed, mainly due to low international prices for selected export crops such as coffee, which were at their lowest point in 20 years. This, coupled with the lack of old subsistence crops, caused East Timor to start 2005 with a serious food shortage. Seventy per cent of the population has suffered from hunger to varying degrees, and at least 58 cases of starvation have been recorded. Parallel to this contraction of GDP, there was an increase in consumer prices of 4 to 5% in the years 2003 and 2004.

There are hopes for the future development of offshore oil reserves near the South coast and for the export of agricultural products.

East Timor Politics