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José Ramos-Horta on the Complexities of Nation-Building in East Timor

Jose Ramos Horta (

Jose Ramos Horta ("Migufu"/Flickr)

So last question now: there are elections scheduled in East Timor in the coming year?

Yes, in February or March of 2007.

Will the UN oversee the elections?

We hope so. We have asked the United Nations to provide electoral assistance, including logistics, technical advice, and financing. We have asked the Secretary-General and Security Council to authorize a continuation of a special political office in East Timor to coordinate all the political and logistic needs of the country. But we still need foreign advisors for the government. We would still like to have some police advisors. Although we are doing very well, East Timor remains, and rightly so, a success story of the UN, there are still many things that are fragile, and prudence would have it that the UN should stay put on a much smaller scale, but it should support us. The election next year will be a milestone: the first elections for the presidency, and the legislature, since our independence in 2002. So we want it to be absolutely flawless, and we alone could not do it. So we hope the international community will provide full support to our efforts at having flawless elections.

What do you think the outcome is likely to be of the elections? Are there likely to be several parties contesting?

Yes, there are several parties. Right now we have 12 parties in parliament, but with the reduced size of our parliament from 88 to 65, chances are that many of the smaller parties will disappear; maybe three, or four, or maximum five, will survive. I hope no less than that, because in a country like East Timor, a developing country anywhere, you need a certain plurality. I do not believe in the two-party system. I believe that even in a small country like East Timor, a certain greater plurality is necessary, so that even the smallest parties, the smallest individuals can feel that they are part of the system, they can express their opinions in the parliament.

I believe that Fretelin, the current ruling party, will continue to score better and will win the next round of elections. I just cannot say whether it will be a bigger majority than it has today, or a smaller majority, but it will win, so that will ensure some continuity and stability in the country.

Interview conducted by Nermeen Shaikh