External Affairs

East Timor Election Points to New Coalition Leadership

An East Timorese woman casts her ballot in parliamentary elections in Dili, East Timor on July 22, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Lirio da Fonseca

Dili: East Timor’s two biggest political parties, Fretilin and the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), have secured a combined 58% of votes in the country’s parliamentary election, preliminary results showed on Sunday.

More than 20 parties were vying for 65 seats in parliament, seeking to win votes from a largely youthful population that has been increasingly frustrated by the nation’s dependence on oil and gas sales and a lack of jobs.

Based on a count of nearly 92% of votes, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, or Fretilin, led the polls with around 30%. It was closely trailed by CNRT, which secured about 28%.

“I chose them (CNRT) because I believe they will develop infrastructure and agriculture,” said 30-year-old voter Agustino Dos Santos. “I’m attracted to their programs.”

Fretilin, whose secretary-general is former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, and CNRT, founded by former independence fighter Xanana Gusmao, have been in a de-facto coalition since 2015, but it is unclear if the parties will continue the partnership.

Fretilin and CNRT are trying to “consolidate peace and stability”, Alkatiri told Metro TV, adding corruption and mismanagement were the biggest problems for the leaders of East Timor.

Former President Taur Matan Ruak’s newly established People’s Liberation Party (PLP), which ran an anti-corruption campaign calling for more spending on areas like health and education, got around 10% of the vote.

The official result of East Timor’s fourth parliamentary election since independence in 2002 is expected to be announced by August 6.

More than 700,000 East Timorese were registered to vote in the country of 1.2 million people, which gained its independence after an often violent 24-year resistance movement. The former Portuguese colony was invaded by neighboring Indonesia in 1975.

Dwindling output from the tiny nation’s existing oil and gas fields, compounded by the slumping prices of the commodities, have hit the government’s budget and crimped its ambition to develop manufacturing as an engine for economic growth.