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Frédéric Durand
Christine Cabasset-Semedo

Part 3. Politics, legitimacy and electoral processes

Suffering, Dignity and Recognition. Sources of political legitimacy in independent East Timor

Kelly Silva

Texte intégral

When I came back from Australia and saw from up there, I cried.
Poor Timor, that’s too much suffering.(...)
D. Tomásia Alves, March 2007

  • 180 Dumont (L.) 1997, Homo Hierarchicus: o sistema de castas e suas implicações.
  • 181 This text is one of the first products of a research project named “A nação em urnas: projetos civi (...)

1In the first semester of 2007, East Timor, as an independent country, held its first presidential and parliamentary elections. The political and social crisis of 2006 was the background for the pleas which led Ramos-Horta to the Presidency of the Republic and Xanana Gusmão to the post of Prime Minister. This article discusses certain aspects of the dispute for political legitimacy in the access to the leadership of the East-Timorese National State. The analysis is based on the dynamics of the first turn of the presidential election campaign in 2007. In order to identify some of the moral and sociological principles that structuralize the claim for modern political authority of the different groups of the local elite, we proceed to an ethnographic observation of electoral phenomena such political rallies, radio and television programs and media coverage. In this context, emphasis will be given to the role played by the veterans of FALINTIL (Armed Forces for the National Liberation of East Timor), amongst other things. Such a fact, when associated with the discussion around the public performances of the candidates throughout their campaigns, is considered an indication of the precedence that values such as suffering, dignity and recognition180 have in the East-Timorese contemporary political culture repertoire. It is also contemplated the hypothesis that some modern institutions – political parties and the East-Timorese National State – have been legitimated and achieved a feeling of belonging due to the political alliances between the cosmopolitan urban elites and local authorities, mediated by the veterans of the resistance181.

  • 182 cf. Trajano Filho (W.) 2005, “Uma experiência singular de crioulização.”
  • 183 During the production of this article, I could count on the attentive reading and constructive crit (...)

2This text is divided into three sections. The first one presents some characteristics of the social and institutional atmosphere in which the elections were carried out, pointing out the protagonists of the observed disputes. In the sequence, the campaign itself is the subject of the discussion, being analyzed some aspects of the rallies common to several candidates. Throughout this article I indicate, then, some variables that guide the dispute for modern political legitimacy, which I suggest should be taken as pertaining to the emergent Creole political culture of the new country.182 At the end of this article I present some new issues to the debate183.

1 - Context

  • 184 It is interesting to notice that in 2002, only two people ran for the Presidency of the Republic: X (...)

3Eight candidates were running for the Presidency of the Democratic Republic of East Timor in 2007184: Francisco Guterrez Lu Olo (Fretilin – Frente Revolucionária de Timor-Leste Independente/ Revolutionary Front for Independent East-Timor); Avelino Coelho (PST – Partido Socialista Timorense/ East-Timorese Socialist Party); Manuel Tilman (Klibur Timor Oan Aswa’in-KOTA); Xavier do Amaral (ASDT- Associação Social Democrata Timorense/ East-Timorese Social Democratic Association); Lúcia Lobato (PSD – Partido Social Democrata/ Social Democratic Party); José Ramos-Horta (independent candidate); João Carrascalão (UDT – União Democrática Timorense/ East-Timorese Democratic Union) and Fernando Lasama (PD – Partido Democrático/ Democratic Party). From the legal point of view, candidatures were not associated to political parties. Candidates should present themselves to the State and to the population by exploring only their individual identity. In pragmatic terms, however, association to political parties was strategically used. Fretilin, for example, ostensibly related the figure of Lu Olo to the history of the party, whereas João Carrascalão avoided using the name of the UDT in his campaign.

4Candidatures were presented and campaigns took place in an unstable political atmosphere, the legacy of the social and political crisis in 2006, whose reasons were not yet very clear for many of the East-Timorese. Refugee camps; Australian-led multinational military forces on the streets; armed deserters coming both from East Timor National Police (PNTL) and from F-FDTL (FALINTIL – Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste/ East-Timor Defense Forces) on the mountains; actions organized by martial arts groups; rice supply in crisis; absence of local police forces, among others, were some of the elements found in the context of the electoral disputes in the country, spreading the feeling of fear and insecurity over a great part of the population. One could wake up in Dili, in the middle of the night, with the sounds of shots, screams and cries of fear, mainly if he/she lived near the regions of Comoro and Bairro Pité. There was no region in the city completely free of political commotion.

  • 185 cf. Feijó (R.G.) 2007, Timor. Paisagem Tropical com Gente Dentro.

5Technically, the elections were carried out by the United Nations, assisted by the East-Timorese Technical Secretariat for Election Administration (STAE) – a national organ connected to the Ministry of State Administration – and supervised by the National Electoral Committee (CNE), a local institution detached from the Government. The results of the elections were ratified by the Court of Appeal. In a situation of institutional frailty, the elite members of the political parties, assisted by numerous international consultants, would debate everything from the date of the elections to the vote counting method.185 Less than ten days before the elections, for instance, the Parliament, under request of Fretilin, was still discussing the possibility of using the symbols of the parties in the ballots.

2 - Campaign

6Officially, the campaign for the first round of East Timor Presidency was carried out on from March 23, 2007 to April 4, 2007. But it had, in fact, started months before that, when the leaders from the different parties began to reorganize and dispute their political basis looking for support. Such processes culminated in happenings called party consolidations.

  • 186 Palmeira (M.) & Heredia (B.) 1995, “Os comícios e a política de facções.”

7Besides party consolidations that, as well as the political rallies, can be described as a demonstration of strength by the candidates and/or parties in the regions in which they took place,186 the East-Timorese public presidential campaign was officially composed of the following elements: candidature launching (formally and informally), campaign opening, political rallies, door-to-door canvassing, radio and television programs, pamphlets distribution and motorcades. I will discuss below the characteristics common to the morphological and discursive constitution of some of these phenomena, such as cognitive windows that reveal variables and mechanisms over which modern legitimate political authority has been constructed and disputed in the country.


8It could be noticed in a considerable number of campaign vehicles a common way to introduce the candidates to the population: their history of life was described by presenting their biographies, divided in, at least, four common moments/categories: 1) formal education; 2) participation in the resistance movement; 3) professional experience; 4) political trajectory in the post-independence period.

9Concerning the first category, in Manuel Tilman’s campaign material, for example, could be found:

  • 187 Tilman (Manuel), Dr Manuel, 2007. Manuel Tilman’s electioneering leaflet. Free translation from the (...)

He learned the ABC in the Catholic School of the mission of Ainaro, where he learned to read and to write, between the years 1955 and 1956. Between the years of 1956 and 1961 he went to the Catholic School of Soiaba, coordinated by Jesuit priests, where he attended to Primary School. (...) He studied Law at Universidade Clássica in Lisbon, Portugal, between 1971 and 1976.187

10As for the resistance trajectory, it was pictured, in one of the pamphlets of Fernando Araújo Lasama, in such terms:

  • 188 Vota ba Lasama, 2007. Free translation from the original in Tetum.

In 1988 Lasama and some classmates founded RENETIL (Resistência Nacional dos Estudantes de Timor-Leste – National Resistance of East Timorese Students). (...) As a clandestine political organization, its function was to gather students and intellectuals from Indonesia, East Timor and other countries. Between June 1988 and 2000, Lasama was the General Secretary of RENETIL. In such post, Lasama managed to organize (...) students, intellectuals and young people from several locations, such as Dili, Denpasar, Mataram, Surabaya (…). And even from other countries, as Portugal, (Foreign Independent Headship of RENETIL), Australia, England and Ireland.188

11With regard to professional experience, Xavier do Amaral’s biography was so described:

  • 189 Amaral (F.X. do) Curriculum Vitae, 2007.

1. Latin Teacher at the Seminary of Dare, 1964-1966; 2. Teacher at the Catholic Primary School in Lahane, 1966-1967; 3. Portuguese Teacher at Dr. Francisco Machado Secondary School, 1968-1972; 4. Public Functionary at the Customhouse in Dili, from 1972 until April 1974; 5. Treasurer of the First Class at the Customhouse in Dili, 1974-1975.189

12As to political experience, there is a description of Lu Olo’s role as the President of the National Parliament narrated in his folder campaign:

  • 190 Vota ba LuOlo, 2007. Free translation from the original in Tetum.

Lu Olo as the Parliament President: I learned to receive and to evaluate with justice and good will the wishes of several parties; I learned how to mediate and decide according to the majority’s will; I learned how to take important decisions to people’s lives; I learned how the Government, Parliament, Courts and Presidency execute their functions and how they relate according to the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of East Timor; I learned what a State is and also how to consolidate its institutions.190

13The presentation of the candidates’ biography, using the four above-mentioned structural categories, was a resource exploited in most of the campaign events – candidature launchings, rallies, radio and TV propagandas, etc – and it could happen by reading the candidates’Curriculum Vitae or even by paying a newspaper in Dili to publish it. Such biographical plot indicates the minimal conditions that socially qualified the candidates as able to accomplish modern political functions: 1) participation in the resistance movement against Indonesian occupation; 2) formal education; 3) experience in politics and, to a certain extent, 4) significant professional experience.

  • 191 Manuel Tilman belongs to the Biluha House, from Maubisse, Ainaro.

14It was also a common practice to identify the family origins of the candidate in the campaigns. Both Manuel Tilman and Xavier do Amaral have always highlighted the fact that their families descended from important local Royal houses.191 Lu Olo, Lasama and Lúcia Lobato emphasized their condition of genuine East-Timorese due to their autochthonic origins, in opposition to the situation of Ramos-Horta and João Carrascalão, who come from a family composed by a Portuguese father and an East-Timorese mother. The antagonism between mestizo and genuine East-Timorese would sometimes be mentioned in the candidates’speech, and explored as a political argument.

Rhetorics of Pain and Suffering

15Another common aspect to all candidates in their performances in the political campaign was the reference to the suffering (terus) and the difficulties (susar) experienced by the East-Timorese population both in past and present times. On their respective rhetoric, the sharing of suffering was the element that fraternized the electors as a specific entirety, instituting them really as East-Timorese. The attempt to create identification with their potential electors was made by the candidates by evoking their own suffering experiences, particularly those they have been through during the Indonesian occupation. Reports and images showing pain and famine would appear in many campaign acts, both in oral speech or in the makeup of the podiums, in which the former FALINTIL guerrillas were always present. In this context, the ex-FALINTIL became symbols of terus, and their support, the object of dispute among the parties.

  • 192 Free translation from the original in Tetum.

16The movie entitled The Uprise of the mauberes (Maubere oan sira hamrik ba, in Tétum, O levante dos mauberes, in Portuguese) was one of the main pieces in the Fretilin campaign. Images of the suffering of East-Timorese people, both during the colonial period and the Indonesian occupation appeared frequently in the plot. In the first part of the video, some women related their long-lasting bond with the party, with emphasis on the testimonial of Ilda Maria da Conceição, former viceminister of Education. The suffering undergone by her family during the period of the Indonesian administration is a well-known story in the country. In the same video, another woman asserts: “I have suffered with Fretilin, and I shall remain with it. Back in that time Fretilin was all that existed and that’s why I am Fretilin forever”.192

17When Lu Olo launched his candidature, in Ossu, Viqueque, Mari Alkatiri, a few moments before handing the microphone to the candidate, stated:

  • 193 Free translation from the original in Tetum.

I would like to say that when Fretilin organized the gathering, the long-lasting meeting to decide if the candidate would be Lu Olo, he said ‘I come from a poor family, I lived all my life among the folk, suffering with them, I couldn’t prepare myself to run for presidency. It’s better to choose another fellow.’ And I said: ‘No. It’s exactly because of this, because you have a humble origin, and remained among the people and has suffered with them, because you really know them, that’s the reason why you must be the president of the Republic’.193

18In the campaign leaflet of Lasama the following report can be found:

  • 194 Vota ba Lasama, 2007 Free translation from the original in Tetum. My emphasis.

When he was twelve years old, Lasama already knew what the folk’s suffering was. In 1975 he witnessed the bloodshed and murdering of 18 people from his family by the Indonesian troops (…).194

19In her radio broadcasted speech, Lúcia Lobato constantly used, "long-suffering East-Timorese people" as a vocative to address her potential electors. She said, among other things,

  • 195 Free translation from the original in Tetum. My emphasis.

Many comments are being made about what criteria we should follow to choose the president of the country. Some people say that the president must be someone well-known and also a person with experience, but no one knows how to measure experience when it is related to ruling over a nation. (…) what we need is a president who is able to feel the folk’s suffering, able to love the people from the bottom of his heart, listen to its difficulties and struggles, and stimulate the government to take the necessary measures to improve the quality of life of the poor. The long-lasting suffering of East-Timorese people needs but a woman to understand its children’s suffering and difficulties. The long-lasting suffering of East-Timorese people calls for a President that can be a family example; Timor, being in pain, needs, as a President, someone able to make peace and promote stability, to surpass this current crisis. Timor needs, as a President, someone bold enough to make decisions in the name of its people.195

20“Consolidating justice, developing stability and wiping tears” was the motto of Xavier do Amaral’s campaign. In one of the materials for his campaign the following text can be found:

  • 196 During the first years of Indonesian occupation, Xavier do Amaral was accused of betraying the lead (...)

(…) Choose by yourselves. Trust your vote to whom who governs with the mind and the heart. Do not trust those who govern with ambition, who are only worried about personal aspirations, who are proud, who only fraternize among themselves, who do not recognize folks’ suffering, who do not know about other people’s contribution”. (…) It is true that I have not suffered as others have, but I have not done any harm to the East-Timorese.196

  • 197 cf. Cardoso de Oliveira (L.R.) 2002, Direito legal e insulto moral: dilemas da cidadania no Brasil.

21In the campaigns, suffering was evoked in association with claims for correct recognition,197 which were supposed to be expressed by the very act of voting. In this context, the candidates tried to objectify their trajectories of pain and self-sacrifice as a symbolic capital that would qualify them to be given the entrustment (fiar), the recognition and also the votes of the electors.

  • 198 cf. Silva (K. da) 2007, “A Bíblia como Constituição ou a Constituição como Bíblia?”

22The articulation of these two themes (suffering and recognition), has played, for a long time, an important role structuralizing the local political dynamics. In 2005, the government attempted to transform Catholic education as an optional subject in Primary School. In that context, the high hierarchy of the Catholic Church of East Timor claimed to be the genuine depositary of the sufferings of the population during the Indonesian occupation, and to whom the due respect should be shown, by maintaining the religious education as an obligatory discipline. In order to enfeeble the project it was suggested that the most powerful governmental group, which means, at that time, the ones who have returned from Mozambique under the leadership of Mari Alkatiri, had not suffered side by side with the population, as the Church had done.198

23This issue – the suffering undergone during the Indonesian occupation – is also one of the most important sources of meaning to the antagonism between outsiders (the ones which returned to the country after the East-Timorese Diaspora) and insiders (the ones who remained there and experienced the occupation in their everyday lives), which are so present in the new Creole society of Dili.

  • 199 Free translation from the original in Tetum.

24During the campaign period, on March 8, 2007, International Women ´ s Day, a book named Hau fo midar, hau simu moruk. Midar no valor iha tempo luta, lafolin iha tempo rekonesementu (I gave sweetness, bitterness is what I got back. Gentleness and worthiness during times of struggle are priceless in the times of recognition) was released. Many of the women who attended the release expressed their pain for not being given the correct recognition for their work in the resistance movement during the Indonesian occupation. Micató, a prominent East-Timorese public figure and co-author of the book, said in her speech that: “The ones who have not fought have an easy life. Those who fought do not have any recognition. This is how it is in many places in the world. It is the way it is in Mozambique too ". Mana Bilola, another important figure for the local women's movement closed festivity stating: “Our sacrifice (terus) has made us one.”199

25It is also known that part of the political crisis in 2006 was triggered by protests of approximately one third of the F-FDTL members, who were basically men of loromonu origin. The petitioners – as they were later denominated – claimed to be victims of discrimination in the corporation because of their regional origin. They stated that part of their co-workers and superior commandants of lorosae origin declared that loromonus had not struggled – and suffered – for the independence as much as the lorosaes, which would supposedly justify to the loromonus the restricted access to career promotions, among other things.

26What actually happened inside the F-FDTL is still the object of polemic. In order to base the proposed analysis, I would like to mention only one dimension of the 2006 conflict: the then-President Xanana Gusmão’s effort to dissolve any doubts concerning the involvement and suffering of lorosaes and loromonus in the struggle for freedom, due to the disruptive potential of such issue in the context of the crisis and, why not, in contemporary East-Timorese political culture.

Maromak & Matebians

27Religious practice and adhesion was an issue largely evoked in the electoral campaigns. All the candidates tried to present themselves as “good Christians” in order to seem reliable to the population. In the ritual pragmatics of East-Timorese politics from that time, Catholic and Christian liturgy would appear in a rather explicit way. Many public events would be started and finished with a prayer.

28Ramos-Horta was one of the candidates who more frequently explored religious imagery in the campaign. In his public activities as a candidate he would appear wearing a T-shirt with the face of Jesus Christ printed on it. Some of his campaign material consisted of posters with pictures in which he appeared by the side of Bishop D. Ximenes Belo or the Pope Benedict XVI, with the slogan “Vote for Ramos-Horta”. On March 24, 2007, at his rally in Aileu, he said goodbye to the electors with the sentence “May God be with you”.

29Lúcia Lobato, on the other hand, has occasionally paid for the celebration of a thanksgiving mass in the districts and subdistricts where her rallies would take place. On March 27, during a rally in Aileu, a UDT national representative prayed for Maromak (God) to free the population from suffering. Lu Olo introduced himself as a “convinced Catholic” in his campaign material (Vota ba Lu Olo, 2007).

  • 200 Silva (K. da) and Simião (D.) 2007, Timor-Leste por trás do palco.

30The compromise of partnership and good relations with Catholic Church in East Timor was part of the promises of all candidates and the relations between some of the politics of the State and religious practices were explored during the electoral period, even before the beginning of the campaign. From mid February onwards, for example, criticism on the educational cooperation agreements between East-Timorese (where Fretilin still had power) and Cuban governments started to emerge on East-Timorese public space. Members of the High Hierarchy of the Catholic Church, who informally supported Ramos-Horta or Fernando Lasama, accused the government of promoting the abandonment of religious practices among the students who were sent to Cuba, alleging that the East-Timorese who lived in that country in order to study medicine did not have opportunities to go to Mass nor to confess, amongst other religious obligations. This polemic motivated the then Minister of Education, Rosália Corte-Real, to travel to Cuba. After her regress, statements and pictures of East-Timorese going to church in Cuba were published. This is an example of how international cooperation practises are politicized by different elite groups and used as munitions in games of power.200

31Maromak (God) and Matebians (the dead) were constantly evoked during the campaigns in an evident overlap of autochtone cosmologies and bonds of belonging to the Nation-state. After the opening prayer in each rally, the orator asked the public for one minute of silence in memory of the freedom heroes (heróis da libertação). In a PD rally in Gleno, in order to begin the works, the presence of dead people’spirits and God was evoked at the same time. In the party consolidation of Fretilin, in Same, on February 11, 2007, Nicolau Lobato’s son, when on the podium, evoked the memory of his father who died in that region in 1978.

32Bonds of institutional belonging of the dead “freedom heroes”, to which Nicolau Lobato is the model figure, were constantly celebrated by Fretilin during the campaign and the resistance was presented as an exclusive legacy of this party. In this context, Fretilin presented itself as the only depository of the population’s history of resilience, as a symbol of their struggle for freedom, with deep roots in East-Timorese tradition.


33On April 25, 2007, I attended Fernando Lasama ´ s (PD) rally, in Ermera. As it usually happened, I was driven there by the party leaders from Dili. When we got there, we had lunch at the house of commandant Fitun, a well-known leader in the district and, not by accident, a former guerrilla. Back to the center of Gleno, while we were waiting for the arrival of the PD caravan, one of the young leaders of the party told me if he went up on the podium and made a speech, it would be useless. People would not even listen to him. According to him, that would happen because he had not spent the years of the resistance suffering with them. They did not know who he was; hence, they would not trust him. Because of that, the role of those who stayed in the mountains during the resistance was so fundamental. The organization of that rally was possible because of two members of the party having such a profile, the former guerrillas Dudu and Fitun, he reported. It is not by accident that the former commandant Dudu was on the podium, seated at the left side of Lasama.

  • 201 In the last years of occupation, the East-Timorese resistance was organized in three fronts, under (...)
  • 202 Suco is an administrative unity formed by a set of villages.

34The presence of FALINTIL veterans or people who had an important role in the resistance in the mountains was common and wanted as part of the political campaign.201 There was a dispute among candidates for the support of those veterans, who were seen as popular and charismatic figures because of their history – of suffering – shared with people in the countryside (no mato). It was also stated that those characters had a great power of influence over local authorities – suco202 chiefs, village chiefs, lia nain, matan dook – and the authorities influenced the vote of people from their village or suco. Besides, former guerrillas played the role of symbols of suffering and resistance on the podiums and created an identity between electors and candidates.

35At Lúcia Lobato’s rally, in Manatuto, on March 26, for instance, another FALINTIL veteran was on the podium: Riak Leman. On the way to the district, the party’s personnel commented proudly the adhesion of Major Tara – an F-FDTL petitionary and former guerrilla – to her candidature. It was expected that this adhesion would attract voters from the district of Ermera, region where Major Tara was born and was still living.

  • 203 L-7, besides being a former guerrilla, is the founder-leader of an organization called Sagrada Famí (...)

36In Aileu, March 24, Cornélio Gama (L-7) and representatives of Colimau 2000203 attended Ramos-Horta’s rally. It was also commented that Ramos-Horta wanted the support of Rai-Lós, another petitionary and former guerrilla, for his campaign. Besides them, Ramos-Horta also counted on the support of the most notorious former FALINTIL still living, the president at the time, Xanana Gusmão, who brought with him the support of many ex-combatants and veterans decorated by the former combatants recognition committees.

37In the party consolidations of Fretilin in Viqueque district, deputies Antônio Machado, Joaquim dos Santos and Madalena da Silva played an important role on the podium and also in the organization of that event. The three were born in the district and lived there during the Indonesian occupation. Besides, it is important to highlight that the Fretilin candidate at that time, Lu Olo, was also a former guerrilla; a fact that would always be mentioned by the several campaign vehicles of his party.

38In addition to the resistance veterans, it was common to see on the campaign podiums, or even in the audience, lia nain’s, suco or village chiefs or former liurais relatives. Incidently, João Carrascalão’s campaign entourage, traveled around the country carrying a white flag with the image of Kaebauk, the symbol of the liurais. In his rally in Viqueque, on March 24, 2007, the attendance of a former liurai of the district was remarked upon. According to the coordinator of his campaign, Ângela Carrascalão, João counted on the support of several noble families from the Aileu region. In this same district, at a PD rally, a lia nain was in the front line of the podium. In Suai, where his candidature was launched, the closure of the rally consisted of taking Lasama to the local Uma Lisan (House of Tradition). In Ossu, when Lu Olo´s candidature was released, a lia nain from his family pronounced a speech in which he made public his support for the Fretilin candidate because they belonged to the same family.

  • 204 Mauss (M.) 1974, “Ensaio sobre a dádiva”

39There was also another common feature to all the rallies: the candidates who were running for presidency would always be the last ones to make their speech in the events. Before them, eminent personalities of the local or national political scenario who supported the candidates addressed the spectators. Things happened as if such authorities (veterans, lia nain’s, suco or village chiefs), when pronouncing their speeches, would transfer their charisma and mana204 to the candidate; covered and dignified by such moral forces, he would then make his speech.

40It is interesting to notice that the electoral events in districts and subdistricts were, in most of the cases, organized by the leaders of local supportive bases of the parties. These leaders could be former guerrillas, traditional chiefs or local figures of the State administration offices: suco or village chiefs. The success of the rallies in the countryside was in part due to the charisma of the local political parties representatives based in the regions in which the events took place. On the other hand, many of the prominent characters from the parties in Dili were not known by the countryside population. For this reason, however, they would speak at campaign events in order to make themselves known. At a PD rally in Ermera, for example, João Boavida, Mariano Sabino, Rui Menezes, among others, made speeches before Fernando Lasama orated. Maria Paixão, João Gonçalves and others also took part in the Manatuto rally during Lúcia Lobato’s campaign.

41Political leaderships, oldish and new, modern and “traditional”, met each other on East-Timorese podiums, their strength being mutually increased, in an act of diffuse reciprocity, by the resources each one would give in order to make possible the execution of the rallies. Financial funds collected by the cosmopolitan urban leaderships of each party were distributed among their bases, making possible the organization of rallies, which consisted, among other things, of hiring trucks for transportation, distributing meals, providing musical concerts and so on.. Local leaders, when introducing themselves as the ones responsible for organizing such events, became stronger before their bases. On the other hand, their presence on the podiums would transfer their charisma to the presidential candidate who they supported. When they organized such events, they also created objective conditions so that young and old national leaders grew stronger before the eyes of the countryside inhabitants.

  • 205 Antlöv (H.) & Cederroth (S.) 2004, “Elections in Indonesia”; Anderson (B.) 1990, Language and Power(...)
  • 206 cf. Leal (V.N.) 1986, Coronelismo, enxada e voto; Lanna (M.) 1995, A Dívida Divina; Palmeira (M) & (...)

42Bibliographic references concerning the electoral dynamic in Indonesia under the New Order regime205 have suggested that local authorities and others leaderships (village leaders, suco leaders, subdistricts administrators, civil servants, etc.) are fundamental brokers to the modern political system, sources of vote canvassing and hegemony consolidation of political forces on a national range. The protagonism of such social actors in practices of that nature would be settled in patronage relations, sociologically qualified as patron-client relations, a category that sounds rather familiar to those educated according to the Brazilian Social Science analytical tradition.206 Therefore, it is from this historical background that East-Timorese contemporary electoral dynamics should be comprehended, since it was under Indonesian administration that East-Timorese elites and local people had the contact with electoral practices, until that time unfamiliar during Portuguese colonization.

  • 207 Comaroff (J. & J.) 1998, Of Revelation and Revolution.

43I suggest, therefore, that the attention to the phenomenology of rallies leads us to some clues to apprehend the mechanisms by which the dialectic of modernization207 has been happening in East Timor since independence was restored. From the clues that have been noticed in the events listed above, it is possible to propose that such a phenomenon occurs by means of alliances between the cosmopolitan urban and local (“traditional”) elites, mediated and strengthened by the support of some former guerrillas.

3 - Final Perspectives

44This article is one of the first products of a work in progress. Here, I have tried to point out some sources of legitimacy for the execution of political functions in the modern East-Timorese State. Such sources of legitimacy could, perhaps, be considered part of the emergent creole political culture repertoire. Temporarily, I call East-Timorese creole culture the mass of symbolical references existing in Dili and other semiurban spaces, produced by the dialectic interaction between the principles of social classification common to several ethnolinguistic groups who live in the country, to the Portuguese colonization, to the Indonesian occupation and to the international cosmopolitan administration experiences.

45Suffering and correct recognition appear as fundamental values of the symbolic repertoire that compose the political events related above. Popular attention to the operations of the resistance veterans and FALINTIL former combatants recognition committees, as well as the implications of Xanana Gusmão’s speeches in social and political conflicts in 2006 testify, once more, the central focus of this subject in East-Timorese postcolonial scenario. The following variables seem to be conditioners of the modern political legitimacy in the country: 1) formal education; 2) professional experience; 3) participation in the resistance movement (as source of suffering); and 4) former experience on modern State institutions.

46The results of the elections suggest that the regional belonging is an issue in a process of increasing politization in the country. In Eastern region, a great support to Fretilin is noticed, whereas in the Western region it is pulverized to the several parties and candidates who opposed the governance led by that party. The comprehension of how these processes were formed over time is one of the challenges to better understand the formation of the Nation-State in East Timor.

Avelino Coelho’s candidature release at Hotel Timor. © Kelly Silva.

A fretilin podium in Ossu, where Lu Olo candidature was released. © Kelly Silva.

Poster of Ramos Horta presidential campaign in 2007. © Kelly Silva.


180 Dumont (L.) 1997, Homo Hierarchicus: o sistema de castas e suas implicações.

181 This text is one of the first products of a research project named “A nação em urnas: projetos civilizatórios em disputa no contexto pós-colonial timorense”, supported by CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico). This investigation also counts on the sponsorship of FCT (Fundação de Ciência e Tecnologia – Foundation of Science and Technology-from Portugal), for the project “Traduzindo a Cultura, Cultura da Tradução: a negociação cultural como patrimônio central em Timor-Leste.”

182 cf. Trajano Filho (W.) 2005, “Uma experiência singular de crioulização.”

183 During the production of this article, I could count on the attentive reading and constructive critique of Christine Cabasset-Semedo, Frédéric Durand and Daniel S. Simião, for which I am very grateful. The support of FINATEC (Fundação de Empreendimentos Científicos e Tecnológicos) made possible my participation at the V Euroseas meeting, for which this text was originally prepared.

184 It is interesting to notice that in 2002, only two people ran for the Presidency of the Republic: Xavier do Amaral and Xanana Gusmão. The meaning of such an important increase in the number of candidates may indicate something on the pulverization of political leadership in the country.

185 cf. Feijó (R.G.) 2007, Timor. Paisagem Tropical com Gente Dentro.

186 Palmeira (M.) & Heredia (B.) 1995, “Os comícios e a política de facções.”

187 Tilman (Manuel), Dr Manuel, 2007. Manuel Tilman’s electioneering leaflet. Free translation from the original in Tetum.

188 Vota ba Lasama, 2007. Free translation from the original in Tetum.

189 Amaral (F.X. do) Curriculum Vitae, 2007.

190 Vota ba LuOlo, 2007. Free translation from the original in Tetum.

191 Manuel Tilman belongs to the Biluha House, from Maubisse, Ainaro.

192 Free translation from the original in Tetum.

193 Free translation from the original in Tetum.

194 Vota ba Lasama, 2007 Free translation from the original in Tetum. My emphasis.

195 Free translation from the original in Tetum. My emphasis.

196 During the first years of Indonesian occupation, Xavier do Amaral was accused of betraying the leaderships of Fretilin. Having surrendered to the occupying forces, he spent the years of occupation exiled, outside East-Timorese territory, in Indonesia. Free translation from the original in Tetum. My emphasis.

197 cf. Cardoso de Oliveira (L.R.) 2002, Direito legal e insulto moral: dilemas da cidadania no Brasil.

198 cf. Silva (K. da) 2007, “A Bíblia como Constituição ou a Constituição como Bíblia?”

199 Free translation from the original in Tetum.

200 Silva (K. da) and Simião (D.) 2007, Timor-Leste por trás do palco.

201 In the last years of occupation, the East-Timorese resistance was organized in three fronts, under the supervision of the CNRT (Conselho Nacional da Resistência Timorense-National Council of East-Timorese Resistance): the armed front, represented by the FALINTIL; the clandestine front, composed by integrants of East-Timorese civil society in the territory and; the diplomatic front, formed by members of East-Timorese diaspora in Australia, Portugal, Mozambique and Angola. Each of these fronts had organical relations among themselves. The FALINTIL, for example, survived for 24 years with weapons and other kinds of commodities which were property of the Indonesian Army or sent by the clandestine front. Portuguese was the language used for communication by the elites of the movement. For a description of the different phases the resistance movements have gone through, from 1975 to 1999, see Magalhães (A.B. de) 1999, Timor-Leste na encruzilhada da transição indonésia.

202 Suco is an administrative unity formed by a set of villages.

203 L-7, besides being a former guerrilla, is the founder-leader of an organization called Sagrada Família, which, as Colimau 2000, has a political character.

204 Mauss (M.) 1974, “Ensaio sobre a dádiva”

205 Antlöv (H.) & Cederroth (S.) 2004, “Elections in Indonesia”; Anderson (B.) 1990, Language and Power: Exploring Political Culture in Indonesia; Alagappa (M.) 1995, Political Legitimacy In Southeast Asia: the quest for moral authority.

206 cf. Leal (V.N.) 1986, Coronelismo, enxada e voto; Lanna (M.) 1995, A Dívida Divina; Palmeira (M) & Heredia (B.) 1995, “Os comícios e a política de facções.”.

207 Comaroff (J. & J.) 1998, Of Revelation and Revolution.

Table des illustrations

Légende Avelino Coelho’s candidature release at Hotel Timor. © Kelly Silva.
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Légende A fretilin podium in Ossu, where Lu Olo candidature was released. © Kelly Silva.
Fichier image/jpeg, 188k
Légende Poster of Ramos Horta presidential campaign in 2007. © Kelly Silva.
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Kelly Silva holds a Ph. D. in Anthropology (University of Brasilia, 2004) and is an Assistant. Professor at the University of Brasilia. Her research focuses on anthropology of complexe societies, with an emphase on problematics related to State anthropology, international cooperation, politic and elites. She coordonates or participates to several investigation works on elites and the State-Nation building in Timor-Leste. She published, with Daniel Simiao, Timor-Leste por trás do palco, Humanitas, Belo Horizonte (Brasil) (2007). Contact:

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