The Constitution provides that every citizen has the right to participate in the political life and in the public affairs if the country, either directly or through democratically elected representatives.
Citizens of Timor-Leste are able to exercise their right to participate in political matters directly through the provisions of the Constitution on referendum. It is, however, limited on optional referendum at the national level. The referenda referred to by the Constitution in only those of electors on the national register of voters and on issues of national interest. Excluded as subjects of referendums are those pertaining to the civil service, taxes and public expenditure commitments, adoption of international treaties and matters that fall under exclusive competence of the parliament, the government and the courts.
A referendum may be proposed by a one-third minority of the Parliament but an absolute majority of two thirds is necessary to have the proposal approved. The government may also initiate a referendum but only in cases of well-founded proposals. However, it is still in the hands of the president that the final decision for a referendum rests. Moreover, a referendum shall only be binding if the number of votes cast is more than half of the registered voters.
Despite the provisions of the Constitution for optional referendum, specific legislation or regulation concerning its conduct still remains inexistent. Furthermore, no other referendum has occurred in the country besides that of the 1999 independence, which was even before the Constitution and most laws that exist at present.
Direct Democracy Database: East Timor. (n.d.). Retrieved from International IDEA:
The Constitution of the Democratic Republic of East Timor