MEDIAONETIMOR-East Timor’s Fretilin party has opened the way for the formation of a broad-based unity government to rule the tiny nation for the next five years as it led counting of votes in Saturday’s national elections.
“Now the campaign is over, there are no opponents, there are only compatriots who want to work together,” Mari Alkatiri, the secretary-general of Fretilin, told supporters at the party’s headquarters in Dili.
With 88 per cent of votes counted, Fretilin led with 30 per cent of the vote late on Sunday.
Mr Alkatiri, a former prime minister, said his party would hold talks with Xanana Gusmao, the country’s independence hero, whose National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) was running second with 28 per cent of the vote.
“We will do everything to embrace everyone but we will continue to work with Xanana Gusmao, the inescapable figure of this country, in order to respond to the clear message from our people,” he told the Portuguese newsagency Lusa.
Since 2015 the two parties have ruled East Timor through a power-sharing executive. The Partido Democratico, or PD, and the People’s Liberation Party (PLP) had each gathered just under 10 per cent of the vote.
PLP leader Taur Matan Ruak, a former revolutionary commander and president, had campaigned for increased spending on health and education, rather than the multimillion-dollar infrastructure projects that have been financed by the outgoing government.
His party has wide support among young university-educated Timorese. Asked whether it was possible Mr Ruak’s party could be included in a coalition, Mr Alkatiri said “our arms are open.” Mr Alkatiri said he expects to meet Mr Gusmao soon and that they would hold a joint press conference.
Fretilin’s central committee will also meet to decide on who to nominate as prime minister. “This responsibility that the people now give us will be treated with the greatest sense of responsibility,” Mr Alkatiri said. The official count result is expected to be released on August 6.
Voters turned out en masse for the country’s fourth parliamentary elections since independence to elect 65 MPs, amid growing concern at the former government’s failure to use wealth generated by oil and gas to reduce poverty, improve education and create jobs.
Revenues from existing oil and gas fields are set to dry up in a few years. The Greater Sunrise gas field in the Timor Sea remains undeveloped as East Timor and Australia continue negotiations under international conciliation. In March, voters elected Fretlin’s Francisco ‘Lu-Olo’ Guterres – also a former revolutionary commander – as president.(Etan/AP)