I’ve done fish and apart from the weather, I guess there is no getting away from the fact that there is a presidential election campaign underway. Now before your brain immediately starts comparing it to a US-style presidential election, remember that the president here appears to have very little real power and is more ceremonial than anything else. I am not sure the people here have really fully come to terms with the power differences of the roles of president, prime minister and parliament.
As to who would make the best Timorese president and the impact that party affiliation has on the operations of the position, I don’t know. I am no student of politics and most of the time, shake my head in amazement (and often disgust) at the antics of politicians – the double speak, the evasion of hard questions, the bagging of opponents and the cliched nature of election campaigns. The sudden urge to kiss babies one month before an election campaign …well mothers, better wash them afterwards.
Keep in mind that my observations are from an English speaking visitor’s perspective and I am not part of the target audience for any electioneering so I don’t expect to know much at all about what is happening behind the scenes and at street level.
Compared to OZ elections (for example), there appear to be similarities and there are certainly differences. Basically, apart from the Fretilin party, there appears to be nowhere near the same level of campaign funding (as you should expect here). We are still 11 days out and I have only seen minimal street advertising and no handing out of campaign literature. All I can say is I have read about campaign rallies but not seen one myself yet. There has been the odd scuffle at these rallies.
I have seen one of the common campaigning methods used here and that is the convoy of trucks with chanting supporters flying flags. I have seen this before with supporters of Rogerio Lobato when he went on trial in the courts, on peace rallies and just before Fretilin held their internal leadership vote last year. It should be noted that (based on my guess) these truck convoys contain 98+% males and in the age group 15 to 25 – not exactly fully representative of the voting population. Yesterday’s convoy that I saw, seemed to be only 3 trucks (with UNPol escort) with supporters chanting “Lu’Olo” (ie the Fretilin presidential candidate).
One of the local newspapers ran a mobile phone text message poll recently. Initially, the Fretilin candidate was well down in the results but after a couple of days, there was a big surge in the Fretilin numbers. Again, in this country, a mobile phone poll is probably not going to be representative either.
In web space, I have really only been able to find material from the Fretilin party. Again, I wonder just how targeted this can be in this country – for Dili residents only and only a small proportion at that. There is no doubt that Fretilin have the resources which the other parties do not seem to have.
I am expecting things to wind up over the next week and hopefully, I will have something more useful to say. I have been told that it is probably not a good idea to go to a campaign rally but I wonder if curiosity will get the better of me. I like to watch.
Note : It took me a week to write this. Drafted it once, threw it away, did it again, computer crashed, lost it. Its actually quite different from the first go. Depends on which side of bed you get out of.