Subject: Timor President Wants Unity Government


Time Magazine: East Timor's Fractured Election

Jul 5, 5:06 AM EDT

Timor President Wants Unity Government

By ZAKKI HAKIM Associated Press Writer

DILI, East Timor (AP) -- The ruling Fretilin party narrowly defeated its rivals in elections on this tiny, politically volatile island, prompting the nation's president to call for a national unity coalition to avoid a collapse of the government.

With almost all of the ballots counted, the Fretilin party narrowly beat a new grouping formed by independence hero Xanana Gusmao in Saturday's elections, official elections results showed.

The country's president called for a government of national unity, saying he feared a coalition that did not include all major parties would collapse after several months.

"I am confident that if all political parties join my offer then it will ... bring us into prosperity and happiness," said Jose Ramos-Horta, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to Indonesian rule.

Most parties have said they will not join a Fretilin coalition.

Analysts say a likely outcome is a government formed around Gusmao's party, which garnered around 6 percentage points less than the 29 percent of the vote received by Fretilin. Under that scenario, Gusmao could become prime minister.

"I suggest the idea of involving all parties because I don't want the government to only survive for two or three months and then collapse," Ramos-Horta said. "There is no need for an opposition block in the parliament."

He said he would meet leaders of the parties in coming days to discuss the plan.

The election followed a year of violence and political turmoil in East Timor, which broke from Indonesian rule in a U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1999 and has since struggled with widespread poverty, gang violence and other problems.

Mari Alkatiri, head of Fretilin, said Wednesday his party was in talks with several other blocs about forming a governing coalition, but ruled out any deal with Gusmao's party, a bitter rival.

"If Fretilin fail to make a coalition, it is better for them to become the opposition," said Julio Tomas Pinto, a professor of political science at East Timor's La Paz University. "To avoid violence, the Fretilin leadership has to make sure its supporters understand that it did not win a simple majority," he said.

While it led the election, Fretilin's vote share plummeted from the 57 percent it took in the 2001 election. That widely predicted slide was largely due to anger at the slow pace of development since independence, analysts said.

East Timor, a Portuguese colony for 450 years, fought a 24-year struggle against Indonesia and formally became independent just five years ago amid a widespread campaign of murder and rape by pro-Indonesian militias that killed 1,500 people.

In April and May last year, the country of 1 million people descended into chaos when fighting between police and soldiers led to gang warfare, looting and arson, causing 37 deaths and driving 155,000 people from their homes.

About 3,000 foreign peacekeepers restored relative calm, but East Timor is still plagued by unemployment and about 10 percent of the people still live in refugee camps or with relatives.

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Time Magazine

East Timor's Fractured Election

Thursday, Jul. 05, 2007 By HANNAH BEECH

Democracy can be a messy business. The tiny Southeast Asian nation of East Timor, just five years old, learned that lesson this week after parliamentary elections on Saturday resulted in no one party capturing a majority. Preliminary official results released on July 5th gave former ruling party Fretilin 29% of the vote, while the National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor (CNRT), the party newly formed by popular ex-President and independence fighter Xanana Gusmão, trailed with 24%. The split vote means that East Timor ­ already fractured along geographical and socioeconomic lines ­ will most likely be ruled by a coalition government composed of squabbling members. "We will try to find agreement," says Fernando de Araujo, whose Democratic party may be a member of the piecemeal government. "But we have some big differences, and there is little trust [between parties].

<,8599,1619358,00.html>East Timor's Founding Generation Stays in Power

A presidential election sees a reshuffle of positions among those who fought for independence from Indonesia

The nation of East Timor was born in bloodshed. Hundreds of civilians died in 1999 as departing soldiers from Indonesia, which ruled the half-island for 24 years, torched the country. The United Nations quickly moved in, restored peace and set about providing this traumatized country with the basics of nationhood, from a constitution to government ministries. By 2004, the UN administration was confident enough about East Timor's start-up democracy that it began pulling out troops.

But since then, this nation of 1 million has largely stagnated. Gang violence paralyzes the streets of capital Dili. Incomes haven't increased, while malnutrition is up. And citizens are still reeling from another paroxysm of violence that erupted last year after an army revolt went sour, resulting in dozens of deaths. Tens of thousands of people still live in refugee camps, too afraid to return home. U.N. peacekeepers again patrol the streets.

Many East Timorese blame Fretilin for their nation's woes. Back in 2001 when the first parliamentary elections were held, the party led by a posse of exiled resistance fighters captured 57% of the vote.

Support for Fretilin this time around was roughly half that amount, and the party is increasingly viewed as out of touch with East Timor's poverty-stricken masses. "In five years, Fretilin was not able to do anything to make this country better," says Lucia Lobato, a politician with the opposition Social Democratic Party. "People have lost patience."

Yet no other political force has been able to fully capitalize on Fretilin's waning popularity, not even Gusmão's CNRT. Although the party was founded by East Timor's most beloved leader, CNRT was formed so hastily earlier this year that it was not able to build the electoral infrastructure needed to convert respect for Gusmão into actual votes. Still, Gusmão could very well end up as the country's Prime Minister after coalition talks take place over the coming weeks.

His chances may be boosted by the fact that Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta, a Gusmão ally, fended off the Fretilin candidate to assume the post of President in May.

By contrast, the head of Fretilin, Mari Alkatiri, is nowhere near as popular as Gusmão. Indeed, Alkatiri had to resign as Prime Minister last year after his tenure was stained by his handling of the army rebellion. His resumption of the top post could trigger bloodletting on the streets. Yet on Wednesday Alkatiri struck a defiant tone, swearing that he will not allow his party to cooperate with CNRT.

Realistically, though, Fretilin will have to reach out to the No. 2 party if it wishes to be part of a governing bloc. No one said that democracy would be easy.

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