Subject: A Minority can Govern Says Alkatiri

EAST TIMOR: A MINORITY CAN GOVERN SAYS FRETILIN LEADER

Dili, 5 July (AKI) - Commenting parliamentary election results showing the ruling Fretilin party ahead but with just 29 percent of the vote, its secretary-general Mari Alkatiri told Adnkronos International (AKI): "We are trying to make a coalition but the law allows us to form a government even if we are a minority in government." With 99 percent of votes counted, Fretilin has 29 percent, ahead of the CNRT party of former president Xanana Gusmao which won 24 percent. A handful of smaller parties share the remainder of the vote.

Alkatiri stressed in the interview with AKI that, contrary to what has been reported, the Constitution does not state that the government party or coalition must command 50 plus 1 percent of the vote, or 33 of parliament's 65 seats.

"The Constitution says a party or a coalition with the majority in parliament and that is Fretilin," he said.

Some analysts however point out that should Fretilin take a hardline stance and try to govern without the backing of a coalition, new elections will be called in just a few months.

"The truth is that the Constitution is far from clear [on the majority needed to govern] though it is obvious that Fretilin has the numbers to govern," said a local attorney who asked not be named.

"The government needs to have its budget approved," he went on. "And if this is rejected twice, then the president should dissolve parliament and call new elections."

Alkatiri did not specify whether he intends to pursue a minority government if he fails to obtain the necessary support to form a coalition, which appears highly likely.

Alkatiri was deposed as prime minister in the wake of violence last year. His Fretilin party, which led the 24-year struggle against Indonesia, remains popular but fared poorly in the April and May presidential election won by Jose Ramos Horta.

The elections come after a year of political tension and violence, sparked by the Fretilin government's sacking of 600 rebellious soldiers, in which at least 37 people were killed and 150,000 displaced.

(Fsc/Aki)

Jul-05-07 13:10


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