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East Timor Prepares to Form Coalition Government

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

With the counting from last Saturday's parliamentary elections in East Timor nearly finished, it has become clear that none of the 14 parties has won an outright majority, and deal making has begun as the country heads towards a coalition government. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins is in the capital, Dili, and brings us this report.

Election officials say more than 90 percent of the votes have been counted and that neither the ruling Fretilin party nor the CNRT party of former president Xanana Gusmao have the necessary 51 percent of the total needed to control parliament.

Fretilin has a slight lead of around 8 percent over the CNRT. The election is seen as crucial to bringing stability to the impoverished nation.

Fretilin chief Mari Alkatiri says his party is already in talks with some of the other parties, but he ruled out any coalition with the CNRT.

The head of the third placed party, the ASDT/PSD, says it wants to form a coalition with CNRT, a move that would place Fretilin in opposition.

Whatever outcome emerges in the days ahead, as both major parties begin deal-making in earnest, Sophia Cason, a Dili-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, says it will take time for the new government to address the country's urgent problems.

"That's six months away before they even start to address some of the issues," she said. "Definitely, they need to develop a new national plan if they're going to be a new government and decide on the country's priorities…and decide on budgetary priorities and whatnot. But, for me, it's just incredible that none of these parties going into this election really did much in the way of policy development and planning."

With nearly 50 percent unemployment, 40 percent chronic malnourishment, and serious security issues, the next government will have major challenges ahead.

Nearly 10 percent of East Timor's one million people still live in refugee camps more than a year after fighting between rival security forces degenerated into gang warfare and looting.

Cason says the people of East Timor will want results quickly, and the new government will need to move quickly to avoid further instability.

"I think there's going to be a lot of disappointment and they're going to have to start delivering fast. There's going to be some tangible benefit for independence for the people of Timor," said Cason. "So far there's been very little, and a lot of the opposition parties went into this election making massive promises, and I think people are going to start expecting those to be delivered on pretty soon."

East Timor voted for independence from Indonesian rule in 1999, and, after a period under United Nations supervision, became independent in 2002.

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