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A Long and Winding Road: A Brief History of the Idea of a 'Government of National Unity' in Timor-Leste and its Current Implications




Rui Graça Feijó

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Canberra, ACT: Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University


In his inauguration speech on 16 February 2015, Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo announced the mantra of his new government: ‘the members of the Sixth Government will put the interests of the people above any other partisan interests’ (16/2/2015:2). Resorting to this rhetorical topos may be warranted by the major realignment of the parliamentary support for the new government (commonly referred to as ‘National Unity’ or ‘National Inclusion’) now headed by a member of what was until then the sole opposition party, but the implicit disjunction between ‘people’s’ and ‘parties’’ interests suggests a political discourse emerging from a populist, authoritarian ethos rather than from the tradition of liberal democracies. The Minister of State at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Agio Pereira, claims that the bold political move that accompanied the resignation of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão midway through his term and led to the reconfiguration of the political landscape — by means of a new governmental formula that defied established assumptions imposed in the transitional period and in force after independence — represents a transformation of ‘belligerent democracy to consensus democracy’ (24/1/2014). Formed in the national parliament and observing the basic rules of TimorLeste’s constitution, there is no reason to assume that Araújo’s government contradicts formal prescriptions of a democratic polity. However, it can be scrutinised and the wisdom of its underlying assumptions called into debate from the perspective of the long and winding road that leads to the consolidation of democracy






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