Subject: SCMP: Fretilin threatens legal battle

Also Fretilin open to E Timor unity govt

South China Morning Post

July 10, 2007 Tuesday

Fretilin threatens legal battle

east timor Fabio Scarpello in Dili

The fate of East Timor's next government could be decided by a judge, with Fretilin arguing it has the constitutional right to appoint the prime minister.

The party refuses to rule out a legal battle should President Jose Ramos Horta challenge its authority.

The constitution states that the president appoints the prime minister, who "shall be designated by the most-voted political party or alliance of political parties with parliamentary majority".

Most observers read that as giving Mr Ramos Horta the right to choose the prime minister, in the wake of last week's elections that left no clear winner. They say Mr Ramos Horta is free to pick former resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, whose National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor came second at the polls with 23 per cent of the votes.

The congress has since joined forces with three other parties, and controls 37 of the next Parliament's 65 seats.

But legal experts in Fretilin argue the party should be given the mandate as it won 29 per cent of the vote.

"The 'parliamentary majority' in section 106 [of the constitution] does not refer to an absolute majority," said a statement from lawyers Sahe Da Silva and Jose Teixeira, who are Fretilin members.

"The reading of the constitution means that only Fretilin, as the 'most-voted' political party, can appoint the prime minister." Fretilin, which is slated to have 21 seats in the new Parliament, says it wants to form a minority government.

Mr Teixeira, who was natural resources minister, said the congress-led coalition did not have the legal right to govern as it was established after the election. "In parliamentary elections, people do not vote for a coalition that has yet to come into existence," he said.

Officially, Fretilin is sitting on the fence, saying "the party is confident that President Jose Ramos Horta will act constitutionally, so we are not yet contemplating any next move".

But Mr Teixeira has already made it known that Fretilin is not likely to take an unfavourable decision lightly. "We have our constitutional rights and we are prepared to pursue all avenues to have them respected."

Warren Wright, publisher of East Timor Law Journal, said Fretilin's argument was groundless. "The argument is based on a flawed juridical analysis of the constitution. The 'most-voted party' would only apply if there were no coalition commanding a majority," said the lawyer, who has an in-depth knowledge of East Timor's legal system.

"Also, the assertion that any such alliance must have been formed before the election is utter nonsense. The constitution does not require that and the election law cannot override the clear provisions of the constitution."


Fretilin open to E Timor unity govt

Posted 3 hours 59 minutes ago

East Timor's ruling party, Fretilin, says it has begun negotiations with other parties to form a unity government after the young country's recent parliamentary election.

Both Fretilin and CNRT, a party set up by former president Xanana Gusmao, had previously ruled out a proposal by President Jose Ramos-Horta to form a unity government.

Both had said they sought to form a coalition government instead.

Fretilin yesterday said it planned to form a minority government if attempts to link up with coalition partners failed but the party's leader, Mari Alkatiri, has signalled a change of tack.

"Our doors are open for all parties, including CNRT, and we have conducted formal and informal negotiations with all seven parties in the Parliament," he said.

"We are waiting for their response to form a unity government."

Fretilin won 21 seats in the 65-seat chamber in the June 30 election, while CNRT won 18 seats.

The Association of Timorese Democrats-Social Democratic Party (ASDT-PSD) picked up 11 seats and the Democratic Party won 8, while smaller parties took the rest.

Mr Gusmao's CNRT, which the resistance hero established this year as a vehicle to become prime minister, the ASDT-PSD and the Democratic Party said last week they had formed a coalition.

Fretilin, which led the 24-year struggle against Indonesian rule, remains popular, especially in the east of the country, but its candidate fared badly in the recent presidential election.

- Reuters

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