Timor, Thailand, Turkey

Time to catch up quickly on unfinished business from elections in the last fortnight, all of them beginning with “T”.

First East Timor (Timor Leste), which voted last Sunday (see my preview here). Results are now available, and they show a big victory for CNRT, the party of veteran former president and former prime minister Xanana Gusmão. It won 41.6% of the vote and 31 of the 65 seats, outvoting on its own the three-party coalition forming the current government, which managed only 39.1% and 28 seats in aggregate.

Fretilin, the main component of the governing coalition and CNRT’s historic rival, had only 25.8%, down 8.4% from 2018 and its worst-ever performance. CNRT will form government with the support of the Democratic Party, which took third place with 9.3% and six seats. Two parties, the Greens and the United Party for Development and Democracy, fell just short of the 4% threshold with 3.6% and 3.1% respectively, but even if they’d made it it wouldn’t have changed the overall result.

Gusmão is expected to become prime minister, although at age 76 he is presumably looking forward to retirement. Having first guided his country to independence he has now been instrumental in furthering and protecting its democracy, which is a shining example to the region. His final challenge, as Michael Leach reports, will be to ensure a smooth generational transition.

Nearby Thailand, which voted a week earlier, faces a more uncertain future. Not that the election itself was indecisive, with the two main opposition parties – Move Forward and Pheu Thai – winning a large majority between them. But although the military promised beforehand that there was “zero chance” of a coup, it’s still not clear whether the military-backed government of General Prayut Chan-o-cha is willing to give up power.

The coalition backing Move Forward’s leader Pita Limjaroenrat for prime minister will need a total of 376 votes in a joint sitting between the 500-member elected House of Representatives and the 250-member military-appointed Senate. So far it claims to have 313 MPs and about 20 senators, so it needs to either win over some of the other parties or get more senators to do the right thing by democracy.

The parliamentary vote is not expected until early August, so there is plenty of time for more horse trading. Susannah Patton at Inside Story has a particularly good report on what’s involved and what it might mean for Thailand’s future.

Finally to Turkey (or Türkiye), which voted on the same day as Thailand but returns to the polls on Sunday for the second round of its presidential election. Incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led by 4.6% on the first round, falling just short of a majority with 49.5%.

There’s not much suspense about the runoff; it would take a major upset for the opposition’s Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to win from here. Far-right candidate Sinan Oğan, who with 5.2% had most of the rest of the first-round vote, equivocated at first but ultimately endorsed Erdoğan, emphasising (not unreasonably) that since Erdoğan’s coalition had already won a parliamentary majority, an opposition win would be a recipe for instability.

That could nudge Erdoğan’s government further to the nationalist hard right, which means potential trouble for the region. Kılıçdaroğlu and the opposition may take the moral that they need to do more to appease the nationalists, or alternatively that their appeasement of the nationalists was useless and they need to steer in the opposite direction. If Turkish democracy gets another chance, we’ll see which track they take.


3 thoughts on “Timor, Thailand, Turkey

  1. Just a pedantic point: Thailand is hardly “nearby” Timor Leste. The two countries are about 3,000 km apart.


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