Subject: AP: Fretilin proposes alternative government

July 7, 2007

Rival of East Timor independence hero proposes alternative government

By GUIDO GOULART, Associated Press Writer

DILI East Timor

East Timor's ruling Fretilin party, the winner of parliamentary elections a week ago, said Saturday it plans to form a minority government if other parties refuse to join it in a coalition.

The announcement came a day after independence hero Xanana Gusmao proposed a four-party coalition, excluding Fretilin, to be led by his National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor.

The move by Fretilin could trigger a political confrontation for the country's leadership and prolong instability following a year of violence and division.

In June 30 parliamentary elections, neither party came close to gaining the 50 percent majority needed to control the legislature and appoint the next prime minister. Gusmao's alliance would have a slim 51 percent majority in the 65-seat house.

Fretilin leader Mari Alkatiri told thousands gathered at a refugee camp in the capital Saturday that his party is "flexible and open to any party to form a coalition, but if they are against us Fretilin will form a government."

A day earlier, he called Gusmao's coalition proposal a "mistake," a sign of possible tensions to come in the tiny, poverty-stricken country, which is still recovering from a year of violence and political chaos.

Alkatiri argued that his party has the right to form a government because it won 29 percent of the vote, 6 percentage points ahead of its closest opponent, CNRT.

Under East Timor's constitution, proposals for the next government must be submitted after election results are approved by the Appeals Court, expected by Monday. President Jose Ramos-Horta Gusmao's closest political ally will then have the authority to decide.

Mario Carrascalao, the head of one of the parties in Gusmao's coalition, said "it is better for the Fretilin to become opposition in the parliament and give us the opportunity to ... end the sacrifices, misery and difficulties of the people."

Gusmao, the former president who is revered for his role in East Timor's break from Indonesia after a 24-year occupation, has declined to say if he would take the top government job of prime minister if his Cabinet lineup is accepted.

Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace prize winner, has called for a government of national unity, saying he feared a coalition that didn't include all major parties would collapse within months.

"I am the one who will make the decision, based on the spirit and letter of the constitution, which of the various parties can persuade me they are in a position to form a government that is stable, that is long-lasting."

East Timor, a Portuguese colony for 450 years, became an independent state in 2002, but is struggling to recover after a murderous scorched-earth campaign by pro-Indonesian forces devastated 70 percent of the infrastructure.

Up to 183,000 people died between 1975 and 1999 during Indonesian rule due to killings, disappearances, hunger and illness, a U.N. commission found.

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, too scared to ret

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