East Timor's statehood was launched with two U.N.-supervised elections, one in August 2001 to elect the Constituent Assembly (which became the parliament) and the second in April 2002 to elect the head of state. Analysis of district-level returns from the Assembly election reveals two types of strategic voting, three lines of political cleavage in the electorate, and two legacies of Indonesian rule. This article analyzes East Timor's first two elections, with particular focus on the bases of voting choice and on the nascent party system. There are three main findings: (1) a higher level of political savvy among the citizenry than expected, given their poverty and lack of formal education; (2) three political cleavages, one generational and two regional-one that divides the eastern from the western region and one that distinguishes the central mountain region from the rest of the country; and (3) areas that under Indonesian rule had voted heavily for the “opposition” party have now switched to FRETILIN, the new predominant party.

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