While Timor-Leste’s president has praised the peace and stability surrounding the parliamentary election, voters say it is time for the government to tackle corruption and daily needs in a country facing an uncertain economic future.
In a country dogged by conflict and political upheaval, there was calm and good humour on Saturday morning as polling stations opened for 750,000 people to cast their vote on 21 parties vying for 65 parliamentary seats.
Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres and his wife, Cidalia Mouzinho Guterres, joined families and several other members of parliament at a polling station at Farol primary school in the capital, Dili, where he praised the “peace and stability” of the campaign.
Residents line up to cast their votes EPA
“I feel happy and proud that during the one-month campaign. These people are already showing the international community that in Timor Leste we hold (elections) in peace and stability,” he told reporters.
Mr Guterres is from the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN), which along with the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) formed a de facto coalition in 2015 and ushered in a new era of unity.
But the country, where the median age is just under 19 years old, faces an uncertain future.
The government has faced heavy criticism for its reliance on oil and gas revenue to fund projects, salaries and services, with fears that unless the economy diversifies quickly, the country will run out of money within 10 to 15 years.
While the government has been spending big on large infrastructure projects, the newly established People’s Liberation Party (PLP) – which is seeking to become a strong opposition voice in parliament – wants them to scrap life pensions for government members, tackle corruption and start focusing on basic needs such as health, sanitation and education.
Jacinta Mau, 37, who came to the polling station with her three children in tow, said this was what mattered for her this election.
“They need to provide roads, electricity, water and sanitation because these are the needs people are facing in their daily life,” she told AAP.
Jobs and basic needs were also topping the list of 57-year-old government worker Aleixo da Costa Sarmento.
“What we need and what is essential to us is three things: electricity, water and roads,” he said.
“They must be create more jobs for the youth because so many are still unemployed.
“We must fight against the corruption. People cannot live and move forward because corruption only makes one or two people rich.”
Preliminary results will be known by Saturday evening, though official results will be announced early August.