East Timor’s President Jose Ramos-Horta said Wednesday that many Timorese will waste their vote in a presidential election next month if they back one of the explosion of small parties in contention.
But East Timor’s independence hero and Nobel Peace Prize winner also admitted he has taken flak for warning people off some of the marginal candidates among the 13 – including himself – who want to lead the country.
Ramos-Horta told the UN Security Council about chaotic Timorese-style democracy as he hailed changes since deadly unrest in 2006 forced him to appeal for a UN peacekeeping force to be sent.
The meeting was held to formalise plans to end the peacekeeping mission this year – East Timor is now held up as a nation-building success following help from the United Nations and its neighbours.
But on top of the 13 candidates for the March 13 presidential election there are also 24 registered parties for a legislative election.
“Twenty-four political parties in a country of one million,” Ramos-Horta told UN Security Council envoys.
“I always tell people that the United States, a country of 300 million, a superpower, has two parties, Indonesia a country of 250 million has five parties in parliament.
“I can only hope that the electorate is wiser than the aspiring politicians and cast their votes on a handful of the better-known political parties to ensure stable, functioning majorities,” he told the council.
“Because I have talked ad nauseum about this issue in my country I have not earned the sympathy of the aspiring politicians with my frequent blunt appeals to voters not to waste their votes on the new smaller political parties.”
The Timor government is now negotiating a new accord for a UN political presence in the country after the remaining peacekeepers leave this year. Ramos-Horta said the new government would make the decision.
The elections will be held as the country marks the tenth anniversary of its independence from Indonesia. Ramos-Horta said that when he appealed for UN help in 2006, as foreign minister, the country was “racing toward the edge of an abyss.”
He said the crisis could have been averted but blamed it on the growing pains of a new state.
Ramos-Horta praised Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and others for sending peacekeeping troops and giving other help. Today “Dili is a bustling city, full of life. Today it is peace that is palpable,” he said.
East Timor now hopes to soon join the Association of Southeast Asian nations and the Security Council was to pass a resolution on Thursday extending the UN mission’s peacekeeping mandate for what should be a final time.