Timor-Leste doesn’t reflect well on international community

Paul Bronstein/Getty Images The march of democracy has hit yet another road bump. Hopes had been that presidential elections in tiny Timor-Leste would help the country move on from widespread violence and disorder that had broken out last year. Sadly, that looks not to be the case. Five opposition parties are disputing the results and ...

602674_070411_timor_05.jpg
602674_070411_timor_05.jpg

Paul Bronstein/Getty Images

The march of democracy has hit yet another road bump. Hopes had been that presidential elections in tiny Timor-Leste would help the country move on from widespread violence and disorder that had broken out last year. Sadly, that looks not to be the case. Five opposition parties are disputing the results and the party leading at the polls has made accusations of "manipulation"—before any results have even been announced. Heavy United Nations support and the sign-off of the EU on the fairness of the process have not put these concerns to rest. More violence before a likely run-off election is possible.

The importance of the elections go far beyond the well-being of the country's estimated one million inhabitants, most of them desperately poor. In 1999, when the territory then known as East Timor voted to secede from Indonesia, it was seen as a test case for the ability of the international community to help along political and economic development. The U.N. ran the place as a fiefdom for three years and maintained a peacekeeping contingent there through 2005. Whatever lessons it tried to teach obviously didn't take. Now, the U.N. is back, albeit in a supporting role and with the help of Australian troops. And still, there seems to be no obvious path to political stability or even the beginnings of economic development.

Paul Bronstein/Getty Images

The march of democracy has hit yet another road bump. Hopes had been that presidential elections in tiny Timor-Leste would help the country move on from widespread violence and disorder that had broken out last year. Sadly, that looks not to be the case. Five opposition parties are disputing the results and the party leading at the polls has made accusations of “manipulation”—before any results have even been announced. Heavy United Nations support and the sign-off of the EU on the fairness of the process have not put these concerns to rest. More violence before a likely run-off election is possible.

The importance of the elections go far beyond the well-being of the country’s estimated one million inhabitants, most of them desperately poor. In 1999, when the territory then known as East Timor voted to secede from Indonesia, it was seen as a test case for the ability of the international community to help along political and economic development. The U.N. ran the place as a fiefdom for three years and maintained a peacekeeping contingent there through 2005. Whatever lessons it tried to teach obviously didn’t take. Now, the U.N. is back, albeit in a supporting role and with the help of Australian troops. And still, there seems to be no obvious path to political stability or even the beginnings of economic development.

It’s a sobering thought that the best of intentions and the support of the entire international community have not been enough to help a country with a population roughly the same size as San Diego’s. 

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