In August 2001 East Timor held its
first democratic elections, with 16
political parties participating. The
elections established an 88-member constituent
assembly that was responsible for drafting
and adopting East Timorís first constitution.
Fretilin, the party most directly associated
with East Timorís independence struggle,
won 55 seats in the assembly, giving
it a simple majority.
East Timor's Constituent Assembly on
signed into force the territory's first-ever
Constitution after six months of drafting,
consultation and debate. The 170-article
Constitution was officially approved
by a nominal role call.
The Constitution provided for a republic
with a president as head of state and
a prime minister as head of government.
In another preparatory step toward full
independence, East Timor held its first,
direct presidential elections in April.
Former resistance leader Xanana
Gusmão, who after the
1999 referendum was freed by the Indonesian
government and allowed to return to
East Timor, was elected to the post
with an overwhelming majority.