Polling stations open in East Timor


Polls have opened for East Timor’s parliamentary elections, which are being dominated by concerns over the country’s uncertain economic future.

There were people out early in the streets of Dili on Saturday as they began lining up outside polling stations scattered through the capital to cast their votes in an election where 21 parties are vying for 65 seats.

In a country with a long history of conflict and political tensions, this parliamentary election, which is being run entirely by East Timor for the first time, has been peaceful.

It comes just months after Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres was voted in as president – a candidate strongly backed by former resistance leader Xanana Gusmao.

The country’s dominant political parties — the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN) and the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) – have formed a de facto coalition since 2015, ushering in a new era of stability and unity.

But as Michael Leach, an expert on Timorese politics at the Swinburne University of Technology, told AAP this has had its downsides, with no effective opposition in the country.

Running for the first time, the newly established People’s Liberation Party (PLP) are hoping to fill this void.

Listed 12th on the ballot box, the PLP have tagged themselves as ‘Vitamin 12′ – the best antidote to corruption. They want to see the scrapping of government members’ life pension and a different economic focus.

A key concern is if the government keeps spending the oil and gas revenue at the rate they have, the country will run out of money within 10 to 15 years.

The party’s Vice President, Fidelis Magahaes said he was confident they will pick up some seats.

“PLP wants a strong parliament, parliament which consist of brave politicians so that the results of political decisions can be sharper and better for our country,” he told AAP.

He said they want more of a focus on health, education, clean water and housing rather than the big-ticket infrastructure items the government has been focusing on.

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