Filed under: Asia ~ East Timor
In the last few days there was much talk about what happened. There was a big election turnout, or was there? The elections were open and not violent, or was their serious coercion from Fretilin? In a run-off the voters for other candidates will switch to Ramos-Horta, or will they go to Fretilin? All interesting, but what is important?
The President of the Country has a figurehead, ceremonial role of relatively limited power. But the current President, Xanana Gusmao, has had more relative power because his opinion is highly valued by the Timorese people. Now an independent (Ramos Horta) is running against a Fretilin party leader (Francisco, Lu-Olo, Guterres) for this figurehead position. Probably both want it because it is more important than it appears, and because Gusmao, who used to want to be a carrot farmer, has declared that he wants to run for Prime Minister, a post he most probably will win.
Is this important for the country? Probably it is. The Fretilin/Alkitiri government has been criticized for failing to invest more money in its people. As Prime Minister Alkatiri avoided any indebtedness for the country, even did not spend oil revenues so the country could have a good bank account in the future. But many, myself included, felt that was a major error. Since the country is so poor, and since future oil revenues probably will be pretty good, the wise thing would have been to request loans, particularly soft loans from the World Bank with very favorable interest rates and long payback times, to invest the money in education, health, roads and agriculture so the country could significantly improve the welfare of its people. Alkatiri did not do that but relied on support from international organizations. Much help was given, but certainly not enough to jump-start the country. Some of the help, like the UNICEF/WorldBank efforts in education, was very inadequate.
So Fretilin wants the Presidency so that their party can keep some form of control (they will also want seats in the parliament), while Ramos-Horta wants the Presidency so he can help the country to take actions to do more for the people. If Ramos-Horta wins, and the Xanana Gusmao becomes Prime Minister, they most probably will take major action to help the people. If Lu-Olo wins he and his party may be able to continue their short-sighted policies of saving money instead of investing it.
So who wins the Presidency is important.
Who becomes Prime Minister is more important.