Timor-Leste’s opposition party wins election ‘punishing’ ruling Fretilin coalition

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Xanana Gusmao's CNRT party is expected to form a coalition with the Democratic Party
Xanana Gusmao's CNRT party is expected to form a coalition with the Democratic Party, which won six seats in the Timor-Leste election. Image: Mitchell Woolnough/ABC News

ABC Pacific Beat

Timor-Leste independence hero Xanana Gusmao has won the parliamentary election, but the country’s first president may contest the count after his party fell short of an outright majority.

The result of Sunday’s election paves the way for a return to power for the 76-year-old, Timor-Leste’s first president, if he can form a coalition.

Fellow independence figure Dr Mari Alkatiri’s incumbent Fretilin party, formerly the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, won only 25.7 percent, according to the Electoral Commission.

Dr Andrea Fahey from the Australian National University said the results signalled a desire for political change from the people of Timor-Leste.

“The management of the covid pandemic and the fact the government closed down, it was a big punishment vote on the government for that,” she said.

“For Dr Alkatiri, maybe it’s time to pass the torch.”

If there is no outright winner from the election, the constitution gives the party with the most votes the opportunity to form a coalition.

The next government will need to decide on allowing the development of the Greater Sunrise project, which aims to tap trillions of cubic metres of natural gas.

Dr Fahey said Gusmao was expected to move forward with engaging the Australian government on the project.

There are also growing calls for Timor-Leste to join the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), which could owe to its cultural connections to the region.

“It’s kind of the bridge between both regions,” Dr Fahey said.

“Timor-Leste would be a positive addition to the Pacific Forum, and could bring a loud voice [since] Timor has a strong international presence.”

Republished from the ABC Pacific Beat with permission.

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