Leadership Transition in Timor-Leste: Lessons From Indonesia


Author/s (editor/s):

Edio Jose Maria Guterres

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In Brief

After over a year of speculation about government reshuffle and leadership succession, Timorese resistance hero Xanana Gusmão (popularly known by his nom de guerre, Xanana) finally resigned his prime minister post in February 2015, succeeded by opposition FRETILIN member, Dr Rui Maria de Araújo. While Timor-Leste was consumed by the questions of reshuffle and leadership transition, the country's giant neighbour and former occupier, Indonesia, has been preoccupied with 'posttransitional' issues in the first few months of Indonesia's new government under President Joko Widodo 'Jokowi.'

While Indonesia and Timor-Leste are two distinct countries, the interesting recent experience in Indonesia does offer some valuable lessons for Timor- Leste, particularly as the country embarks on the very important course of leadership transition. This important point of reference, however, largely escapes scholarship attention on Timor-Leste (Nygaard- Christensen 2013; Peake et al. 2014). Jokowi's recent political manoeuvres and challenges offer valuable lessons on navigation of delicate politics of political supporters and opposition; winning and losing political support; and that personal popularity, integrity and professionalism on their own are an inadequate political seal. Some resemblances in political realities of the two countries mean that Rui Araújo can benefit from Jokowi's experience.

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