East Timorese politics is dominated by two camps:
representatives of the old Independence Party
Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin),
and politicians in the circle of former guerrilla
leader, president and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão and
the National Congress of Reconstruction. After less than
a year with Fretilin in office, Gusmão's political camps
won a re-election to Parliament in May 2018. Almost two
years later, that government also cracked down. Now the
country is ruled by a four-party government under Prime
Minister Taur Matan Ruak.
In March 2017, Fretilin leader Francisco "Lu-Olo"
Guterres won the presidential election in the first
round. Of the seven other candidates, António da
Conceição from the Democratic Party received the most
votes. Guterre's victory was expected since both
Fretilin and CNRT had expressed their support for him.
Country facts and history of East Timor, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Guterres belongs to the political elite of East Timor
and was a guerrilla soldier in the military branch of
Fretilin Falintil during the liberation war against
Indonesia (see Modern History). The fact that the two
major parties joined behind the same candidate led to
the electoral movement and election day being calm with
only occasional violence. Some analysts warned that East
Timor now in practice lacks a real opposition.
Fretiline forms government
In the parliamentary elections in July 2017, Fretilin
and CNRT were very even. Fretilin won 29.7 percent of
the vote and received 23 of the 65 seats. This was a
slightly better result than in the 2012 election. CNRT
gained 29.5 percent and backed by 8 seats to 22.
President Taur Matan Ruak's newly formed People's
Liberation Party (PLP) received just over 10 percent of
the vote, giving 8 seats, while the Democratic Party
(PD) received just under 10 percent and 7 seats. The new
"youth-oriented" Khunto received 5 seats. There were no
reports of electoral violence.
President Guterres gave Fretilin the task of trying
to form a coalition government. Fretilin first tried to
form government with PLP, but when this failed, PD and
Khunto were invited to the negotiating table. Only in
September could a minority government be presented
between Fretilin and PD, with former Prime Minister Mari
Alkatiri as the new old head of government.
Government crisis and new elections
The opposition, consisting of CNRT, PLP and Khunto,
had a majority in parliament and voted down the new
government's political program in October 2017, which
included, among other things, doubling the tax on
profits that did not come from oil extraction. The same
thing happened in a second and decisive vote in
December. This meant that the Fretilian-led government
had to resign according to the constitution. In January
2018, President Guterres disbanded and announced new
elections until May 12.
The Opposition Tripartite Coalition The Alliance for
Change and Development (AMP), in which CNRT joined with
PLP and Khunto, won the new election by 49 percent of
the vote. It gave 34 seats. Fretilin received 36 percent
and 23 seats. Election Day was calm even though the
election movement was fierce and violent, with dozens
injured in clashes between Fretilin and AMP supporters.
Among the election issues, the economy was in focus.
In June 2018, President Guterre's PLP leader Taur
Matan Ruak, former guerrilla leader, defense minister
and president, appointed a new prime minister. He formed
a government consisting of CNRT, PLP and Khunto. One
month later, the government's political program was
approved by Parliament.
The Prime Minister resigns - and re-enters
In January 2020, East Timor was thrown into yet
another government crisis when the government's draft
budget was voted down. 20 out of 21 CNRT members were
absent in the vote due to internal contradictions within
the government. The two smaller government parties, PLP
and Khunto, voted in favor of the draft budget. Three
days later, Prime Minister Ruak stated that the AMP
coalition "no longer exists". PLP and Khunto wanted to
prioritize welfare and efforts towards climate change,
while CNRT invested heavily in the development of
infrastructure that supports the country's oil and gas
extraction, where among other things CNRT leader Gusmão
has great financial interests.
In February 2020, Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak
resigned after his tripartite government finally broke
down. Three days earlier, CNRT leader Gusmão had stepped
down and said he had support to form a new six-party
government with, among others, the Democratic Party (PD)
and Khunto. In that case, the new government would
receive the support of 34 of the 65 MEPs.
In April of that year, however, Taur Matan Ruak
re-entered as prime minister to lead the country through
the crisis that the corona pandemic entailed. His
government approved a $ 250 million rescue package in an
effort to slow the spread of the new corona virus, which
caused the pandemic.
New four-party government
In June 2020, Prime Minister Ruak presented a
four-party government that controlled 41 of the 65 seats
in Parliament. The coalition consisted of Ruak's own
party PLP, Fretilin, Khunto and the Democratic Party.
Xanana Gusmão's party CNRT thus went into opposition
after failing to get enough support to form a
The Ruak government is expected to increase spending
to deal with the corona pandemic in a new state budget
as well as increase withdrawal from the oil fund for the
same reason. The money will go to, among other things,
the purchase of medicines and medical equipment.
At the time of the formation of the new four-party
coalition, East Timor had 24 confirmed cases of coronary
infection, all of which had recovered from the disease.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
FACTS - POLITICS
Democratic Republic of East Timor / Timor Leste /
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Francisco Guterres (2017–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak (2018–)
Most important parties with mandates in the
Alliance for Change and Development (AMP) 34,
Fretilin 23, Democratic Party (PD) 5, Forum for
Democratic Development (FDD) 3 (2018)
Main parties with mandates in the second most
Fretilin 23, CNRT 22, People's Liberation Party (PLP)
8, Democratic Party (PD) 7, Khunto 5 (2017)
77% in the 2017 parliamentary elections, 71% in the
2017 presidential elections, 81% in the 2018
presidential elections 2022, parliamentary elections