Timor-Leste conducted its 5th presidential election this spring. [Image: krisanapong detraphiphat / Getty Images]

The United States Assists Timor-Leste’s Presidential Elections through USAID


On February 24, 2022, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) granted $500,000 for The Supporting Sound, Representative 2022 Presidential Elections in Timor-Leste Activity, in the effort to support a free and fair election. The program was implemented through USAID’s partnership with the Consortium for Election and Political Process (CEPPS) partners, the International Republican Institute (IRI), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), and their local partners. The activity also coordinated with Timor-Leste’s National Election Commission (CNE) and the Technical Secretariat for Election Administration (STAE).

To ensure a fair and credible election, the activity conducted a talk show Ko’alia Ba Ha’u! (“Talk to Me!”) on television, radio, and social media. The goal of this show was to distribute essential election information widely to voters across the country. The program also attempted to educate voters on voting processes by collaborating with Timorese partners in broadcasting content for traditional media. Furthermore, The Supporting Sound Election activity also worked with Timor’s sub-awardees to conduct an online voter education campaign to motivate people to vote. The education campaign was particularly targeted at young people as well as people with disabilities.

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste is a small island nation located in Southeast Asia with a population of over 1.3 million. As Timor approaches its 20th year of independence, it also conducted its 5th presidential election. Last month, with USAID’s assistance, the Timorese people voted in an election which consisted of 16 candidates, a record number, including four women. With over 660,000 participants out of 850,000 registered voters, the result showed a close run between two candidates, José Ramos-Horta, Timor’s former president, and Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres, Timor’s current president. Since no candidates won majority votes, the election continued to a second round held on April 19th. Although the results is yet to be validated by Timor's electoral commission, preliminary results showed a landslide victory for Ramos-Horta. The newly elected president will be inaugurated May 20th, the 20th anniversary of Timor-Leste's independence.

Previously, USAID and its partners also assisted with other elections in developing countries such as Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Malawi, Tunisia, and Ukraine to ensure transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability in their democratic processes. In addition to USAID’s support in Timor-Leste's election, their partnership with CEPPS has stretched over two decades supporting more than 40 countries in election observations.

As one of the youngest democracies in Asia, Timor-Leste’s election process still needs development. However, with collaboration from the United States and its partner organizations, the elections in the country will continue to improve. In addition to the current weak state of democracy in the world, a successful election through collaboration with international partners is critical for Timor's democracy.

Ruivaldo F. Viana is a participant of the Young Professional Program at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. He is a senior undergraduate student at Luther College studying Economics with a focus on Environmental Policy.