Timor Leste Elections Conclude Peacefully

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Coalition of parties hoped to stabilize governance

By Tito Belo

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, July 9, 2012) – Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao’s party has consolidated power in East Timor by winning this weekend’s parliamentary election with the support of coalition partners.

With all the ballots counted from Saturday’s poll, the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) party led by Gusmao, a former guerrilla leader, had 36.7 percent of the vote, Election Commission official Tomas Cabral said.

The opposition Fretilin Party, the key player in securing independence from Indonesia, scored 29.9 percent. The Democratic Party lay third with 10.3 percent, placing it in a key position in bid to form a government by Gusmao.

New Zealand Labour Party MP Phil Goff, an observer at the election, said the result should improve stability in East Timor.

Goff, one of five New Zealand MPs in the country, said the election was calm and organized, despite concerns it could reignite violence.

He told Radio New Zealand he would visit an opposition Fretilin party stronghold tomorrow to try to gauge how the election results were being accepted.

SBS reports the United Nations would withdraw its remaining peacekeeping personnel from East Timor at the end of the year if the election results are accepted without unrest.

‘Unite’ call

"The result makes us even more curious about who would form the government," said Antonio dos Reis, a veteran independence fighter. "But for me, these parties should unite and form a united government so that we can start developing this country."

With negotiations on a coalition almost certainly ahead, voters huddled around radios to hear the latest tallies, while many followed results posted on Facebook and Twitter.

"What we will see in the next two or three weeks is a lot of discussion between CNRT and the Fretilin about the potential arrangements for the foundation of the government," said Silas Everett, country representative for the Asia Foundation.

"The discussions will probably result in either a coalition or a minority government."

The CNRT based its platform on seeking foreign loans to build infrastructure in one of Asia-Pacific’s poorest countries with high youth unemployment.

Fretilin opposes resorting to loans.

However, Everett said that if the parties could bridge their differences, the resulting coalition would produce a more stable government able to proceed with economic development.

Short of target

CNRT is open for talks following the result announcement, said Dionisio Babo Soares, the party’s secretary-general.

The party targeted to win 44 seats but would only get around 30 of the 65-seat parliament based on the result.

Official results are expected on July 17. The government has said a new administration will be formed by August 8.

Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portuguese colony occupying half an island at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, in 1975.

It spent decades trying to crush opposition to its rule before the territory won independence following a U.N. sponsored referendum. A U.N. mission promoting stability remains to this day.

East Timor has enjoyed stability and peace in the past five years, following a factional conflict in 2006 and attempts to assassinate then-president Jose Ramos-Horta and Gusmao in 2008.

The United Nations, which has said its mission will end in December, lauded Saturday’s election as peaceful and orderly.

Pacific Scoop All editorial and news content produced under the principles of Creative Commons. Permission to republish with attribution may be obtained from the Pacific Media Centre - [email protected]

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