[TimorLesteStudies] Forthcoming publication: Timor-Leste and the discourse of state failure

Jennifer Drysdale jenster at cres10.anu.edu.au
Wed Oct 17 09:51:59 EST 2007

Please note, this article will not be available in your libraries 
until it is published in December.

Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol 61 (2007), no 4, December
Timor-Leste and the discourse of state failure
James Cotton


The disorder in Timor-Leste in 2006, the collapse of the Alkatiri 
government, and then the political crisis following the 2007 
parliamentary elections have all fuelled speculation that the country 
is a potential 'failing state'. After outlining the history of the 
latter concept, this paper examines the Timor-Leste case in relation 
to the phenomena associated with social and political instability. It 
has exhibited tensions between the civil regime and the military, 
apparently deepening ethnic/regional differences, weakness in 
governance institutions and a dependence upon state office as a means 
to wealth/power; all of these factors are associated with 
instability. In addition, some policy choices have fostered 
particular grievances. Timor-Leste's situation with reference 
specifically to the comparative literatures on 'state failure' and on 
'Africanisation' is then reviewed. State failure literature suggests 
that regime type and executive recruitment and participation 
practices are crucial; as a new democracy hitherto dominated by a 
distinct political faction and facing vital electoral contests, the 
political system was bound to exhibit turbulence. However, 
Timor-Leste should be seen in a broader comparative context; 
accordingly though clearly at risk some caveats should be entered on 
the prospects for 'failure' of the Timor-Leste state. Timor-Leste 
never having been the site of a fully functioning state, its politics 
more resembles Melanesia than Africa.

More information about the Easttimorstudies mailing list