RUI GRAÇA FEIJÓ
AGAINST FORMIDABLE ODDS.
TIMOR-LESTE BOLD DECISION TO BUILD A DEMOCRATIC STATE.
Date & Time
27. 7. 2021, 15:00 CEST
On May 20,2002, Timor-Leste emerged from a long period of Portuguese colonialism followed by a brutal, neo-colonial rule by its giant neighbour, Indonesia, to become the first new nation-state of the 21st century. The task before the people of this small half-island in Southeast Asia was daunting: to overcome the utmost destruction caused by the scorched-earth policy of the withdrawing Indonesian forces who burned to ashes all physical infrastructures and depleted the nation of significant number of cadres, thus a requiring a thorough rebuilding of the state administration. More than this, the people of Timor-Leste decided to build a democratic polity, when democratization of political regimes was the zeitgeist in the world scene. The conjugation of state-building and democracy- building is an original process that defies some established wisdom in the political sciences.
This seminar will address the originality of this process, starting with a brief historical survey of the years leading up to independence. This is followed by a SWOT analysis of the odds of success for democratization. Then it focuses on the structuring decisions made by the local leadership, follows the critical junctures the country went through, and discusses the reasons why democracy has endured after the first voluntaristic effort to install it. The final section contemplates recent and worrying signs of political instability at a time when the “third wave of democracy” has given way to a “wave of autocratization” which is hovering around the country.
Rui Graça Feijó concluded undergraduate studies in History (Coimbra 1978), a DPhil in Modern History (Oxford 1984) and a Habilitation in Democracy in the 21st century (Coimbra 2017). Research Fellow at Centre for Social Studies (Coimbra) and Institute for Contemporary History (NOVA University of Lisboa). Over the last 15 years he dedicated his research towards the history, politics and society of Timor-Leste, which he visits frequently. Monographs include Dynamics of Democracy in Timor-Leste (AUP 2016) and Presidents in Semi-presidential Regimes (Palgrave 2020). Co-editor of Transformations in Independent Timor-Leste (Routledge 2017) and The Dead as Ancestors, Martyrs and Heroes (AUP 2020).