Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Internal security improved in 2009, but little was done to address the underlying causes of a period of political instability that began in 2006. Alleged perpetrators of a 2008 assassination attempt against Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao and President Jose Ramos Horta went on trial in July. In October, Gusmao’s government narrowly survived a no-confidence motion after officials released a former militia leader accused of human rights abuses without a court order. Also that month, the country held generally free and fair village council elections.
At the end of 2009, the total value of East Timor’s fund for oil and gas royalties was estimated at more than $4 billion, and the country has one of the highest aid-per-capita ratios in the world. Nevertheless, it remains the poorest country in Southeast Asia, with an unemployment rate of about 50 percent and more than 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line.
East Timor is an electoral democracy. Elections for the presidency and the unicameral Parliament held in 2007 were generally deemed free and fair, as were October 2009 local elections in 442 villages. The directly elected president is a largely symbolic figure, with formal powers limited to the right to veto legislation and make certain appointments. The leader of the majority party or coalition in the 65-seat, unicameral Parliament becomes the prime minister. Both the president and Parliament serve five-year terms, with the president eligible for up to two terms. Fretilin, now in opposition, remains the single largest political party, and personalities and old loyalties tied to the resistance movement of the 1970s influence political outcomes more than policy issues.