Recent Elections: The most recent presidential and parliamentary elections took place during the year and were the first national elections administered without UN assistance. International observers assessed them as free and fair. Concerns about possible pre- and post-election violence proved unfounded; the process of forming a new government was peaceful and continued as of December.
Following revisions to the local elections and the electoral management bodies laws, local elections were held in 2016. While there were several complaints about voting logistics, including incomplete voter registration lists and improper ballot provision, the elections were generally seen as free and fair.
Political Parties and Political Participation: Establishment of new political parties requires new parties to obtain 20,000 signatures, which must also include at least 1,000 signatures from each of the 13 municipalities, to register.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women and/or members of minorities in the political process. Electoral laws require at least one-third of candidates on party lists be women. Women held 24 of the 65 seats in the National Parliament, but only six out of 37 ministerial, vice-ministerial, and secretary of state positions. Civil society and social media users criticized Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri for the relatively small number of women named to cabinet positions. At the local level, at least three women must serve on every village council, which generally include 10 to 20 representatives, depending on village size. In the local elections, the number of female village chiefs increased from 11 to 21. Meaningful participation by women at the national and local levels, even when elected, is sometimes constrained by traditional attitudes and stereotypes.
The country’s few ethnic minority groups were well integrated into the political system. The number of ethnic minority members of parliament and in other government positions was uncertain, since self-identification of ethnicity was not a common practice. Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri was the most visible member of a minority group in government.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The penal code provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The government faced many challenges in implementing the law, and the perception that officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity was widespread. The Anticorruption Commission (CAC) is legally charged with leading national anticorruption activities and has the authority to refer cases for prosecution. Although the CAC is independent, the government controls its budget, making the CAC vulnerable to political pressures. To fight corruption, the government undertook surprise inspections of government-run programs and increased pressure to implement asset management and transparency systems.
Corruption: During the year the CAC addressed several corruption cases. Anecdotally, corruption was widespread among government officials. There were accusations of police, including border police, involvement in corruption--most commonly bribery and abuse of power. Allegations of nepotism in government hiring were common. The customs service was under scrutiny for alleged corruption related to incoming goods, but no cases were filed. The 2016 National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing called corruption endemic.
A case against former president of the National Parliament Vicente Guterres for “crimes of economic participation” involving the sale of cars for parliamentarians was stalled because the Dili District Court was still waiting to see if the parliament would grant a waiver of immunity.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires that the highest members of government declare their assets to the Court of Appeals, but the declarations do not have to be made public and there are no criminal penalties for noncompliance. President Lu Olo made a public asset disclosure after taking office in May.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials usually cooperated with these organizations, although the government did not always respond to their recommendations.
Civil society criticized the government for insufficient efforts to address crimes committed during Indonesian control of Timor-Leste. The government was generally unresponsive, but created the Centro Nacional Chega to continue documentation of Timorese resistance to Indonesian occupation.
Government Human Rights Bodies: By law, the independent PDHJ is responsible for the promotion of human rights and good governance and has its own budget and dedicated staff. It has the power to investigate and monitor human rights abuses and governance standards as well as make recommendations, including for prosecution, to relevant authorities. The PDHJ has satellite offices in Manufahi, Maliana, Oecusse, and Baucau. According to the Deputy Director, PDHJ received 46 complaints related to human rights from January to September. During the year the office investigated and monitored land evictions, access to justice, governance, prisoner complaints, and abuse by security forces. There were no reports of significant government interference. The PDHJ, in cooperation with the UNDP, provided human rights training to the PNTL. PDHJ also organized a human rights training for the F-FDTL in November, which included ceremonial opening remarks from President Lu Olo.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons