'Moderate optimism' about Fretilin-led executive as crisis continues

'Moderate optimism' about Fretilin-led executive as crisis continues


The secretary-general of Fretilin, the largest party in East Timor"s parliament, said on Friday that there is "moderate optimism" about the chances of its forming a new government with a parliamentary majority.

"I can say that there is moderate optimism on our side about the possibility of forming a government with a coalition, inclusion and parliamentary focus," Mari Alkatiri told Lusa.

"This is what already happened in 2017" after Fretilin won that year's legislative elections, he noted, stressing the aim of "guaranteeing a parliamentary majority at the outset because the key here is in parliament, not in government."

The Fretilin leader said that, even so, optimism "is justified" and that on Saturday "there will be light at the end of the tunnel", with what he said would be a "one-hundred-percent" alliance with the Popular Liberation Party (PLP) of the current prime minister, Taur Matan Ruak.

That option, he explained, would guarantee the coalition 31 of the 65 seats in parliament (23 from Fretilin and eight from the PLP) to which would be added "two others" from the smaller parties - although he did not say which ones - plus one more on the basis of parliamentary incidence.

The issue here is whether Fretilin can secure the support of the three MPs from the smaller parties in parliament, the Unity and Democratic Development Party, Frente Mudança (Change Front) and the Timorese Democratic Union - each of which has one seat.

The same three deputies have also been cited as being ready to join the coalition that was announced first, to be led by Xanana Gusmão's CNRT - with 21 deputies - with five each from the Democratic Party (PD) and KHUNTO. A senior CNRT leader told Lusa that the three deputies from the smaller forces "are guaranteed" in the coalition led by Gusmão.

That same situation was confirmed by a senior PD leader, who today wrote to CNRT confirming that he would join the coalition.

Lusa has tried to confirm the positions of the three parties but has not so far been able to obtain comment.

Asked about the fact that the party had backtracked on repeated statements in recent weeks that it was not interested in leading or joining a coalition government, Alkatiri said that it "had no other choice" at present.

"Fretilin only entered these new arrangements because it had no other option," he said. "It had to enter to create an alternative because if there would not have been a single alternative and there would have been no choice.

"But it was not within Fretilin's strategy to govern now or to participate in government," he added.

Asked who would lead such a government - one option, according to party sources, being for Taur Matan Ruak to continue as prime minister - Alkatiri declined to comment.

"I'd rather not say anything about it," he said. "I don't care much about this."

On the fact that Fretilin might end up taking over the government in the middle of the parliament, Alkatiri said that the party's priorities remain what they were.

"Of course, governing for two and a half years is not the same as governing for five years," he said. "It would be a half-time programme. But the priorities for Fretilin are always clear: we assume that the evil is systemic and that we have to correct a lot of the system."

East Timor politics have been in crisis for several years, with the incumbent government"s draft state budget for 2020 having been voted down by parliament.