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Timor - Government

In September 2001, following UN-supervised elections the previous month, East Timor’s first Constituent Assembly was inaugurated. On 22 March 2002, that Assembly passed East Timor’s Constitution, formally establishing a parliament and the positions of both a Prime Minister and President. Under the Constitution, the President has a largely symbolic role. As Head of Government, the Prime Minister holds the main power.

The constitution grants equality to all citizens and forbids discrimination on the grounds of color, race, marital status, gender, ethnic origin, language, social or economic status, political or ideological convictions, religion, education, and physical or mental condition. The protection of senior citizens, disabled people, and children are also specifically mentioned, which, in the case of children, applies to all forms of abandonment, discrimination, violence, oppression, sexual abuse, and exploitation. Among the basic rights included are those of personal freedom, security, and integrity. They include the freedom to demonstrate in accordance with the law; the right to political participation; the right to free speech; the guarantee of a free press and other mass media; freedom of conscience, religion, and worship; freedom of movement; and freedom to assemble peacefully when granted. Voting is regarded as a civic duty for all citizens over the age of 17. The organs of sovereignty, comprising the executive, legislature, and courts, must observe the principle of separation and interdependence of powers. After approximately three years, the need to overcome the gaps identified became an imperative in order to move forward with bolder programs and measures for the fulfilment of the National Development Plan goals and objectives as it regards the provision of services that have more concrete results for the populations. Such desideratum can only be achieved through economic growth as a means of eradicating poverty. At the same time, one must not loose sight of the need to strengthen the public, social and private institutions so as to ensure the sustainability of the entire process.

The Head of State is the President of the Republic, who is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The President guarantees the respect for the Constitution and for State Institutions, and when necessary, can act as a mediator for conflit resolution. He can also exercise the right to veto legislation put forth by the government and approved by the National Parliament. Following legislative elections, the president appoints as prime minister the leader of the majority party or majority coalition. As Head of State the President also presides over the Council of State and the Superior Council of Defense and Security.

The unicameral Timorese parliament is the National Parliament or Parlamento Nacional, whose members are also elected by popular vote to a five-year term. The number of seats can vary from a minimum of 52 to a maximum of 65. All legal political parties can run to the legislative elections, organizing to that effect their list of candidates to the National Parliament. The Government is the Executive body of the State and is responsible for the development and implementation of the Government Program for the 5 year term. The Head of the Government is the Prime-Minister.

The Prime Minister has its own competence and that delegated under the Constitution and the Law. It is especially incumbent upon the Prime Minister, to lead the Government and to preside over the Council of Ministers; to direct and guide overall policy of the Government and the governing action; represent the Government and the Council of Ministers in their relationship with the President of the Republic and the National Parliament; to coordinate the institutional strengthening of the State institutions, the support to the development of the national business community, and the administrative decentralization. The following services and organisms are under the direct purview of the Prime Minister: National Development Agency; National Procurement Commission; Economic Planning and Investment Agency; General State Inspectorate and the National Intelligence Service.

The Prime Minister is assisted by the Vice Prime Minister, Coordinator of Social Affairs and by the Minister of State and of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers according to their own responsibilities. The Minister of State and of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers assists the Prime Minister in the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and in the coordination of the Government, and takes on the functions of spokesperson of the Government.

The judiciary is independent and subject only to the constitution and the law. There are three categories of courts: the Supreme Court of Justice and other courts of law; the High Administrative, Tax, and Audit Court and other administrative courts of first instance; and Military Courts. The Supreme Court of Justice is the highest court of law and has jurisdiction throughout the national territory and is headed by the president of the Supreme Court of Justice, who is appointed by the president of the republic from among judges of the Supreme Court for a four-year term. The other judges of this court are designated by the Superior Council for the Judiciary, except for one who is elected by parliament. The High Administrative, Tax, and Audit Court monitors the lawfulness of public expenditure and audits state accounts as well as judging actions aimed at resolving disputes arising from legal, fiscal, and administrative relations. Its president is elected from among and by respective judges for a term of office of four years.

Timor-Leste's legal system is based on civil law. Although a broad range of legislation has been promulgated, further strengthening of legal and judicial frameworks will be key to promoting economic development and effective governance in Timor-Leste, particularly the law on land ownership, which is currently before the Parliament. Important commercial legislation that has already been passed by Parliament includes an investment law, commercial registry and tax legislation.

Improving access to justice for all segments of the population remained one of the major challenges in the sector. The limited number of public defenders, lack of a comprehensive legal aid regulatory framework and lack of availability of donor funding for legal aid services hindered access, particularly for the most vulnerable groups.

The administrative division of national territory into four regions (under the stewardship of 4 secretaries of state) and a secretary of state in residence in Oe-cusse constitutes a new stage in the consolidation of decentralised administrative power.

Timor-Leste is dedicated, constitutionally, to the principle of administrative decentralisation of its territory. Currently, it is divided into 13 districts, 65 sub-districts (councils) 498 "Sucos" (parishes) and 2336 villages. Each one of these districts has a capital and is made up, in its turn, by sub-districts (between 3 and 7) with an average of five.

Under new 2008 legislation, Dili's 13 Districts acquired new budgetary authority as Municipalities along the Portuguese model. Under the current system, the Ministry of State Administration in Dili appoints District Administrators. The new law provides for direct election of a municipality chief (Presidente de Camara, equivalent to a mayor). Members of a newly created Municipal Council (Conselho Municipal, the equivalent of a city council) would be elected from party lists by a proportional representation system.

Timor-Leste is split into 13 districts: Bobonaro, Liquiçá, Díli, Baucau, Manatuto and Lautém on the north coast; Cova-Lima, Ainaro, Manufahi and Viqueque, on the south coast; Ermera and Aileu, the two landlocked districts; and Oecussi-Ambeno, the enclave in Indonesian territory. The borders determining the 13 districts have been more or less the same since the last years of Portuguese administration. Each district comprises one capital city and various subdistricts whose number can vary between three and seven, with an average of five subdistricts per district. Demographically, Dili is the district where the majority of the population is concentrated, while Aileu registers the lowest population rate, although its area is superior to Dili’s.

The 13 districts are subdivided into 67 sub-districts, with one designated as the capital, and administrative subdivisions – the so-called sukus (villages) – which vary between 2 and 18 per subdistrict. The largest subdistrict is Lospalos, in Lautem, with an area of 635 km², while Nain Feto in Dili is considered to be the smallest, with 6 km². Fatululik, one of the smallest subdistricts, is the less populated with approximately two thousand inhabitants. The subdistricts which present higher demographic rates are the ones belonging to the district of Dili, specifically those surrounding the national capital.

The smallest administrative division in Timor-Leste is the suku (village), which can comprise one or many aldeias (hamlets). The territory is divided into 498 villages, an average of seven per subdistrict. Baucau has more villages (63) than any other district, while Ainaro is the district with the least divisions (21 villages). Based on the average number of villages per subdistrict, the most central districts are the ones with more administrative segments. Aileu and Ermera have the highest average number, 11 villages per district, and Ainaro and Oecussi-Ambeno the lowest, with five villages per subdistrict. The most central and mountainous subdistricts with the highest number of villages are: Aileu, in the Aileu district, and Bobonaro, in the Bobonaro district, with 18 divisions each; however, the subdistricts of Hato Udo, in Ainaro, and Tutuala, in Lautem, which lie near the coast, have only two villages each.

In regards to area, the largest villages lie on the easternmost part of Timor-Leste, specifically Laline in the subdistrict of Lacluta, Viqueque, with 212 km². Dili comprises the smallest villages (15 altogether), similar to neighborhoods (the so called bairos), with areas between 2 km² and 0.06 km2. The population distribution is highly uneven. Among the four villages that constitute the subdistrict of Fatululik, in Cova-Lima, two have a population of less than 500 inhabitants. One of these villages has only 135 people, being the least populated village in Timor-Leste. As expected, the villages with high demographic rates (over 5,000 inhabitants per square kilometer) belong to the Dili district, namely to the Dom Aleixo subdistrict. The most populated village is Fuiloro in Lospalos, in the Lautem district, with a population of 10,000 inhabitants.

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