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Democratic consolidation in Timor-Leste: achievements, problems and prospects
journal contributionposted on 2014-01-01, 00:00 authored by Damien KingsburyDamien Kingsbury
Timor-Leste has had three rounds of major elections, all of which have been widely regarded as meeting international criteria for being free and fair. There has also been one change of government on the basis of these elections. On these grounds, some observers have suggested that Timor-Leste has met the benchmark for having consolidated its democracy. Timor-Leste can be said to meet the criteria for an expanded minimalist definition of democracy, holding regular, free and fair elections within an open competitive political environment, with relatively little violence and intimidation and general freedom of expression. This political process has, as defined by the literature, also consolidated. However, Timor-Leste continues to face future economic challenges. The literature indicates that states with high levels of poverty, unemployment and with food shortages are more prone to political instability. Given that Timor-Leste's political party system relies heavily on charismatic individuals and, apart from Fretilin, has poor party structures, loss of current political leaders will add a further destabilising effect. Expected economic problems are likely to manifest around the same time that the current generation of political leaders are no longer active. The question will be, in this increasingly challenging environment, whether Timor-Leste can sustain its democracy.