On Tuesday, April 10, the electoral campaign season began in Timor-Leste for the upcoming legislative elections scheduled on May 12. Heightened civil and political tensions are expected in advance of the elections. Incidents of political violence cannot be ruled out.
On April 7, party leaders in Timor-Leste vowed to collectively attempt to maintain national stability and peace during the electoral campaign period amid heightened societal tensions and recent incidents of political violence. On April 6, several people hurled stones at the vehicle of Member of Parliament (MP) Jacinto Rigoberto - who also serves as the Vice Secretary-General of the center-left National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) party - in Lete Foho Ermera district.
May's vote follows less than one year after the last parliamentary elections in July 2017, and was prompted by President Francisco "Lú-Olo" Guterres dissolving parliament due to a political impasse. In general, since the last parliamentary elections, the country has endured a period of heightened political polarization in contrast to the unity government formed between the two main parties - the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN) and the CNRT - that had prevailed following election-related violence nearing the brink of civil war in 2007.
The last government, a FRETILIN-led minority coalition, was dissolved in December 2017. The majority opposition coalition, led by CNRT, claimed the ruling minority coalition's move to not hold parliamentary sessions in November and December was "unconstitutional," after the minority coalition failed to garner enough votes for its planned political program. In response, the ruling minority coalition leader accused the opposition majority for attempting to foment a "coup," as the Timorese constitution states that a government should be dissolved if its proffered political program is twice rejected; it was, in fact, rejected for a second time in December, triggering the dissolution of the government.
Individuals in Timor-Leste are advised to keep abreast of the sociopolitical climate in the coming weeks and months, avoid talking about sensitive political topics in public, and avoid large public gatherings due to the risk of violence. Adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
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