Democratisation and social conflict in timor leste: a not so great transformation
The idea of democratic state-building constituted the basis of the peace promotion engagement of the United Nations and other international agencies in Timor-Leste. Yet, this process of internationally assisted socio-political reconstruction has produced mixed results in terms of achieving a liberal democratic transformation. In accounting for these outcomes, the existing scholarship highlights the ways in which the intensifying power struggles between different competing social groups gave rise to a socio-political order where clientelist, neo-patrimonial governance structures and practices co-exist with those of the Western Weberian state. This article draws on social conflict theory to examine the underlying political economy dynamics of these governance outcomes. It concludes that the process of socio-political ordering experienced in Timor-Leste is not a deviation from the liberal democratic blueprint. It rather results from it, reflects the balance of power between competing groups in society, and develops in such a way that serves the interests of particular social forces while marginalising others. Following from this premise, the article emphasises the point that the analysis of the political environment in Timor-Leste should consider the state-society complex rather than focusing on the quality of state institutions misguidedly insulated from societal interest and influence.