Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan on the Presidential Election in Timor-Leste

April 18, 2012

  1. Japan welcomes the nearly certain election of Mr. José Maria Vasconcelos, known (Taur Matan Ruak = Two Sharp Eyes, former Chief of Staff of the Timor-Leste Defense Force) following a presidential run-off election in Timor-Leste on Monday, April 16, which took place in a peaceful manner and with the support and observation of the international community, including Japan.

  2. This election took place in an orderly, peaceful, and democratic manner that demonstrated the will of the people. That its results have been respected is testament of the consolidation of democracy in Timor-Leste. Japan regards it as highly significant in terms of the country's continued efforts or its full-fledged nation building.

  3. Japan has high expectations for the further advancement of nation-building in Timor-Leste based upon democracy under the next president. To that end, Japan will continue to offer its full support for the nation-building initiatives of Timor-Leste.
[Reference 1] The situation in Timor-Leste
(1) When Timor-Leste became independent from Indonesia in 2002, it became the first, independent state of the 21st century. The country will mark its 10th anniversary on May 20 this year since its independence. Although the state of order in the country quickly worsened in 2006, following the results of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007, the country shifted out of its post-conflict reconstruction period and toward a stage of full-fledged e development. At this time it also drew attention as a successful example of a country seeing the construction of peace and nation-building thanks to the support of the international community.

(2) Timor-Leste has no industries outside of agriculture. One of Asia's poorest countries, in recent years it has been collecting royalties on the development of natural gas in the seas between Timor-Leste and Australia. Challenges the country faces include infrastructure building, human resources development, and the construction of industry.

(3) Ever since Japan hosted 1st Donors' Meeting on Timor-Leste in Tokyo, which occurred even before its independence in 1999, Japan has been offering comprehensive support for nation-building, centering on economic cooperation, the dispatch of personnel for United Nations peacekeeping missions, and support for human resource development. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Timor-Leste. In January, Dr. José Ramos-Horta, President, visited Japan. This was followed by visits from Dr. Zacarias Albano da Costa, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister, in March.
[Reference 2] Overview of the Presidential Election in Timor-Leste
(1) A presidential election (12 candidates) was held on Saturday, March 17, but as no single candidate was able to capture a majority of the valid votes, in line with the regulations of presidential election law, a runoff vote was held to choose between the two front-runners from the first vote, Mr. Francisco Guterres (head of FRETILIN), and Mr. José Maria de Vasconcelos (former Chief of Staff of the Timor-Leste Defence Force) on Monday, April 16.

(2) At the request of the Government of Timor-Leste, the Government of Japan dispatched a team to observe the first vote (led by H.E. Mr. Hideaki Asahi, former Ambassador of Japan to Timor-Leste). For the runoff vote as well, H.E. Mr. Yoshitaka Hanada, Ambassador of Japan to Timor-Leste, led a team of four Embassy staff members to conduct observation activities in the Capital of Dili.

(3) On Tuesday, April 17, the Technical Secretariat for Electrical Administration (STAE) announced the provisional results of the election, as follows (Percentage of votes counted: 100%)
  1. Mr. José Maria de Vasconcelos (Taur Matan Ruak), former Chief of Staff of the Timor-Leste Defence Force (no party affiliation)
      275,441 votes (61.23%)
  2. Mr. Francisco Guterres (Lú-Olo), Head of FRETILIN (FRETILIN)
      174,386 votes (38.77%)
[Reference 3] The Presidency of Timor-Leste
(1) Head of state. Chosen by a direct vote, with a term of office of five years. Cannot have three successive terms. As a symbol of independence and the nation, the president serves as commander in chief of the armed forces. The president’s powers are limited to the promulgation of laws and to an extent, military matters (declarations of war, declarations of a state of emergency, etc.) and diplomatic matters (issues related to security).

(2) In the presidential election in April 2002, current Prime Minister Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão assumed the post of president, and he took up the position at the same time as the country gained independence on May 20 of that year. In the second presidential elections of April 2007, current President Dr. José Ramos-Horta assumed the post following a runoff vote.
[Reference 4] Brief Curriculum Vitae for President-elect Mr. José Maria de Vasconcelos
(1) Born October 10, 1956 (55 years old)

(2) It is widely known that his code name during his time spent as a guerrilla fighter was Taur Matan Ruak (Tetum for "Two Sharp Eyes")

(3) He joined the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN) in 1975. As a warrior in the Fretilin militia (FALINTIL), he engaged in guerrilla activities aimed at achieving independence from Indonesia. In August 2000, he was promoted to Commander of FALINTIL. After independence, he became Chief of Staff of Timor-Leste Defense Force. He stepped down from this position in October 2011 in order to run in the March 2012 presidential election.
    • (*The foregoing is a provisional translation. The date indicated above denotes the date of issue of the original press release in Japanese.)