Campaigning in Dili

Nothing like a big presidential campaign to unclog writer’s block. The candidates were all back in town today. The Fretilin rally was at 10am at the raceway in Comorro, the Lasama rally at Democracy field at 2pm and the Horta rally at the Stadium at 2pm. (I understand the Lucia Lobato rally was yesterday.)

There was also a large crowd milling about in front of the World Bank outside Xavier do Amaral’s house (which is next-door to the WB building). All this added up to a bit of traffic carnage today. Getting around by car was a general pain in the neck, with roads blocked to cater for the associated fleets of supporters moving about in convoy.

I ended up traveling down streets I never usually use to try to get about. It provided further evidence that there really are very few campaign posters on display IN Dili. Last weekend, I went for a Sunday drive to Liquica and beyond. It was quite noticeable that houses in the countryside often had candidate posters on front doors, walls and gates. No-one seems to want to show their hand here in Dili. Better to shut up than to give someone an excuse to abuse you over your voting preference.

In the Liquica/Maubara area, the general feel was that Ramos Horta had the most posters followed by Lucia Lobato.

You couldn’t help but notice the racket from the rallies at Democracy field and the stadium. I stuck my nose into both, and despite the frenzied atmosphere at times, I felt fine. There were quite a few “international press” at the rallies, particularly at the stadium. President Xanana Gusmao and his family attended the Ramos Horta rally which was dominated by CNRT flags but there appeared to be Partido Millenium Democratico and Fretilin Mudanca supporters (or just tshirt wearers).

It was a bit of a battle getting home as Fretilin supporters were moving about town all afternoon in convoy. Based on the age cross-section of those in the Fretilin convoy, the age distribution was definitely skewed towards the male 15 to 25 years old bracket. Both the Lasama and Ramos Horta rallies seemed to have a much broader age distribution.

I am told there were a few rock fights during the day and altercations between Fretilin and other supporters including the use of tear gas, but although I heard sounds indicating trouble at a distance, I saw nothing.