The latest round of elections in East Timor ended peacefully, far removed from the tumultuous and violent period of a decade ago. But the country that has become a model of post-conflict democracy is not without its challenges, including an increasingly complex and contested political arena and a troubled economy. In an email interview, Sue Ingram, a longtime practitioner, consultant and adviser on governance and statebuilding in fragile states, explains how East Timor found its political footing after the 2006 crisis and what is on the horizon.
WPR: What is the significance for East Timor of holding elections without U.N. supervision, and what does this milestone say about security sector reform and the post-conflict recovery in general?
Sue Ingram: The recent parliamentary elections in East Timor were the second national poll this year, following on from the March vote for the country’s president. They come almost five years after the United Nations peacekeeping mission wrapped up at the end of 2012, and it’s worth noting that the successful conduct of the 2012 elections was a benchmark for U.N. withdrawal. While the U.N. provided considerable logistical and technical support for the 2012 elections, this year East Timor was on its own. It handled the polling process and the associated security operation entirely with its own resources, and both elections have been commended as efficiently run and peaceful—further evidence, if needed, of the stability that has accompanied the country’s development since the rocky years of 2006-2008.