DILI — Celebrating with party supporters at the headquarters of his National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, or CNRT, Xanana Gusmao was his usual mix of backslapping and banter last Tuesday. “I’m anti-smoking, don’t be like me,” he said, laughing, before lighting one up. He could afford to be a bit facetious given that three days earlier the coalition he leads won a parliamentary majority in what was the second election in less than a year in East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste. The last vote in July 2017 led to a minority government led by Mari Alkatiri of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, or Fretilin. But Gusmao and his coalition allies in the Alliance for a Parliamentary Majority blocked Alkatiri’s budget, and soon after, in January, the government fell, only 4 months after it was sworn in. Alkatiri, a Muslim of Yemeni descent in what is one of only two Catholic majority countries in Asia, told me that he thought his party would win at least 30 seats, up from 23 last year.
DILI — A three-party alliance led by Timorese independence hero Xanana Gusmao ousted the short-lived Fretilin minority government in East Timor’s election held Saturday, though the top party in the ruling coalition refused to concede the outcome late Sunday. Gusmao and his allies won 49.59% of the vote, according to official figures released Sunday, with only a few ballots left to be counted. That gives the Alliance of Change for Progress 34 seats in the Southeast Asian country’s 65-member parliament, a fragile majority. Gusmao’s alliance, which emerged as the Parliamentary Majority Alliance — or AMP — to oppose the Fretilin-led government formed last year under Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, claimed before the vote that it could win up to 43 seats.
DILI — Voting took place today in East Timor to choose 65 members of parliament, who Timorese hope will form a stable administration after a year of political uncertainty and the quick collapse of a short-lived minority government. “The winner is already here in front you,” said Mari Alkatiri, leader of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, or Fretilin, speaking to the Nikkei Asian Review after voting shortly after 7 a.m. at a school near Dili’s picturesque waterfront. Alkatiri was prime minister of a short-lived government formed after the last election in July 2017. But his coalition held just 30 of the 65 parliamentary seats and its minority government soon fell, after the Parliamentary Majority Alliance opposition coalition declined to support Fretilin’s program for government.
BANGKOK — When incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta lost the March first round of Timor-Leste’s presidential election, some saw it as the end of an era for Timorese politics that began with the country’s independence in 2002. Ramos-Horta, along with opposition leader Mari Alkatiri and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, have dominated since independence, with the top jobs of prime minister and president passing between the sometimes comrades, sometimes rivals. The new President of the country also known as East Timor is former army chief Taur Matan Ruak – a man the from same resistance fighter leadership that fought in the jungles against Indonesia’s elemental 1975-99 occupation, which by some estimates killed a third of the country’s people. Although the new President doesn’t have Ramos-Horta’s international profile, his personal prestige as army head and ex-jungle fighter backed by the opposition Fretilin party machine – meant that Ramos-Horta was knocked out of the race in the first round with 21 percent of the vote. Taur Matan Ruak is a nom de guerre, meaning “two sharp eyes” — a soubriquet he acquired after joining Timor’s Falintil resistance fighters in 1975.