The Shadow of Conflict in the 2017 General Election

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The Shadow of Conflict in the 2017 General Election

Press Release

The suco-level elections conducted in every hamlet (aldeia) occurred with success, despite many concerns expressed by people related to the mechanism of the electoral process. This included some conflicts before, during and after the election.

In light of these small-scale conflicts, the general election of 2017 is approaching, where the issues of politics and security subjects of significant importance. And yet, these two issues are not new issues in this nation. As such, Fundasaun Mahein (FM) urges people and politicians to consider and debate these issues carefully as they vote for the President of the Republic in March 2017, and for the Parliamentary elections in June 2017.

FM takes note of the increasing number of political parties since with the last election, which are busily organizing their personnel and voter base on a national scale. Some of these political parties’ base organization and security personnel are militants from martial art groups (GAM), despite the fact that they were formally banned by a government resolution in 2013.
Amongst these complexities, FM again calls attention to the recent reduction in staff for the CNE from 15 people to 7. This may impose operational limitations on the CNE’s ability to supervise the upcoming elections. Recently, some members of the commission expressed concerns that there is potential for electoral fraud in the upcoming 2017 election due to a new policy which restricts their abilities to protect the democratic process.

As occurred in the 2012 election, speculation can be easily found regarding the establishment of the anti-independence UNTAS organization. Will they establish themselves as a political party in Timor-Leste, and if so, what will happen? Or, is this simply political propaganda used to scare voters?

Finally, internal conflicts, particularly those related to Martial Arts Groups, continue to pose significant challenges to security in Dili and the municipalities alike. Recent “Rama ambon,” attacks in the national capital have left people afraid to walk around at night. Further, rumors of “Ninja,” fighters continue to spread around the territory, but remain unsubstantiated. From the perspective of the public, these concerns are real and serious, and must be treated as such by the relevant security authorities, especially in the run-up to the election.


1. Politically-sensitive security issues should be prioritized in order to facilitate safe spaces for public debate, where all members of society can share ideas, as is their responsibility

2. Leaders of political parties need to promote political communication in an educational fashion, championing language which engages the democratic process over short-minded, self-serving provocations.

3. Electoral monitoring organizations must do everything in their power to fulfill their responsibilities as set out in the law. This includes maintaining distance from political affiliation or bias.

4. Campaign finance managers should be transparent about their budget and funding sources with the public in order to prevent “vote buying” practices

5. National security institutions must collaborate with local authorities in municipalities and councils of community policing (KPK) in order to effectively assess local risks related to the upcoming election, and to design an operational plan for prevention.

6. Security institutions must strengthen their internal disciplinary mechanisms for members, and to periodically rotate their directing members in order to ensure that they are free of politicization by politicians during the election.

For more details on this issue, please see the following:


Nélson Belo
Executive Director of FM
Phone: +670 78316075 or 7756 1184

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