The BGA Timor-Leste Team, led by Senior Adviser Amb. Ian Kemish, recently wrote an update on the parliamentary elections in Timor-Leste.


  • Timor-Leste’s voters went to the polls May 21 in a pivotal parliamentary election that saw longtime competitors and resistance-era icons Xanana Gusmao and Mari Alkatiri come head to head for what could be the final time in Southeast Asia’s youngest democracy. Opposition leader Gusmao’s party, the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), came out on top, winning 41.6 percent of the vote, or 31 of 65 seats.
  • The past two years of Timor-Leste’s politics have demonstrated the complex challenges of commanding a workable coalition, a task the CNRT will need to face as it governs the next parliamentary term in tandem with another party.


  • The immediate post-election period will see intense political negotiations play out in Timor-Leste to decide which party will join the CNRT to form the next government. Timor-Leste’s Constitution holds that if a majority is not won outright, the party with the most votes gets the opportunity to form a coalition and name the next prime minister. The CNRT is expected to enter a coalition with the Democratic Party (PD), which gained six seats in the election.
  • Gusmao ran on a platform of economic development, which was key to his success in the polls. Timor-Leste’s main source of revenue, the Bayu-Undan oil and gas field, will be decommissioned this year, leaving the country almost completely dependent on its dwindling petroleum fund, which is due to run out by the early 2030s. This significantly accelerates the government’s timeline to diversify Timor-Leste’s economy.


  • With Gusmao as prime minister, political stability should improve because the prime minister and president will be strategically and politically aligned. Gusmao and the CNRT backed Jose Ramos-Horta in the presidential elections last year and were key contributors to his success.
  • With Gusmao in a strong position to be the country’s next prime minister, there will be a renewed focus on negotiations for the development of the Greater Sunrise oil fields, which is vital to securing Timor-Leste’s economic future. Gusmao’s strategic and political alliance with President Ramos-Horta, also from the CNRT party, should shore up political stability and end years of political stalemate.

We will continue to keep you updated on developments in Timor-Leste. If you have any questions or comments, please contact BGA Senior Advisor Ambassador Ian Kemish at

Best regards,

BGA Timor-Leste Team