By Hugh Fraser*
TIMOR-Leste – the most democratic state in the south east Asia region – voted decisively at the 12 May parliamentary elections for majority government ending, 10 months of budget paralysis after last year’s inconclusive result.
Together with Friends of Lospalos chair Xaioli Ma and former Mornington Peninsula Shire councillor Tim Rodgers, we had the privilege – which can be withdrawn at any time – to observe the election process as “Observadors Internasional” at the invitation of the Timor-Leste government.
The observers were supported by 17 teams “in the field” from the Australian Embassy in Dili.
We were able to observe the enormous popular rallies held each day just outside Dili and, often in torrential rain, the election process in Lospalos at six polling stations. Unrestricted access was provided to all polling stations.
We were welcomed from poll opening at 7am to close at 3pm. In counting, all votes were then held up for public scrutiny and, after counting, boxed, sealed and returned under armed police escort to the district tally room.
Timor-Leste voted decisively for Xanana Gusmao’s Change for Progress Alliance (AMP) – a coalition of three political parties winning 34 of 65 seats in the parliament and 49.6 per cent of the national vote. Fretilin secured a swing of 4.5 per cent of the vote and 23 seats – remaining the largest single party in the country.
The AMP vote was strong in the in western districts but in the eastern districts, which included the town of Lospalos we visited, Fretilin gained large swings.
At the Luro polling station outside Lospalos, Fretilin obtained 43.85 per cent of the vote to the AMP coalition 34.76 per cent.
Informal votes were rare with a total valid vote of 98.56 per cent in Lautem District, which includes Lospalos. Ballot papers could be marked or pierced against the name and logo of each political party.
Voting is non-compulsory but the voter turnout an outstanding 81 per cent – an increase of five per cent on the 2017 parliamentary election result which did not produce a working majority government, no budget passed effectively freezing government spending for 10 months.
*Hugh Fraser is a Mornington Peninsula Shire councillor and council delegate to Friends of Lospalos Mornington Peninsula which reports annually to council.