'They will decide': Timor-Leste prepares for parliamentary election
Updated 23 July 2017, 19:30 AEST
By Felicity James
Timor-Leste is developing rapidly – 15 years after independence it's got one of the world's highest proportions of women in parliament – but a younger generation is facing growing unemployment levels.
Timor-Leste is preparing to elect a new parliament. The country's developing rapidly – 15 years after independence it has one of the world's highest proportions of women in parliament – but a younger generation is facing growing unemployment levels.
The sounds of an unfolding election campaign can be heard in the villages across Timor-Leste.
Truckloads of young supporters roll in to watch political leaders dance with the crowds and pitch their visions for the new country.
Former President and resistance fighter Taur Matan Ruak says he is well aware young people will shape his parliamentary fate on July 22.
"If we don't know how to involve young people in the development process, they can become a time bomb," he says.
"They will decide the outcome of this election and I'm confident that my party will win."
More than 60 per cent of Timor-Leste's population is under 25.
Taur Matan Ruak's Popular Liberation Party, with its anti-corruption message, wants their vote.
The current Government is a "national unity" power-sharing arrangement between the two major parties — CNRT, the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction party, and Fretilin, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor party.
Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo is a Fretilin member and CNRT, the party of former resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, makes up most of the Government's executive.
Taur Matan Ruak's party is promising to spend more on education and start up a mandatory military service program, similar to those in Singapore and Israel, to deal with idle youth.
He was 19 when he went into the jungle to help begin the country's fight for independence.
"Our generation started the fight for independence, so young people who are present here can be the new heroes of development," he says.