This chapter details how a specific set of social, political and economic factors have driven the emergence of a clientelist, neo-patrimonial state in newly independent East Timor. It analyses how a command style of government and complex systems of reciprocal obligation embedded in an array of parallel, informal and illicit networks have undermined formal rational legal institutions, processes and structures, with critical consequences for future development and stability. The chapter discusses the different theoretical conceptualisations of the Timorese state – and clarification of key terms such as clientelism. It also discusses the origins and nature of contemporary informal security groups (ISGs), followed by an examination of the networked nature of East Timorese society. The chapter provides a description of the events that led to the formation of the current government and emergent clientelist relationships with ISGs and veterans' groups.