Timor Leste's ruling parties likely to form next govt

Election workers checking votes during the parliamentary polls in Dili, Timor Leste, over the weekend. More than 700,000 people had registered to vote, and the official result will be announced by Aug 6.
Election workers checking votes during the parliamentary polls in Dili, Timor Leste, over the weekend. More than 700,000 people had registered to vote, and the official result will be announced by Aug 6.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Preliminary results show Fretilin and CNRT have 58% of votes in parliamentary election

DILI • Timor Leste's two biggest political parties - Fretilin and the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) - have secured a combined 58 per cent of votes in the country's parliamentary election, preliminary results showed yesterday.

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 per cent of votes, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, or Fretilin, led the polls with around 30 per cent.

It was closely trailed by the CNRT, which secured about 28 per cent. "I chose (CNRT) because I believe they will develop infrastructure and agriculture," said 30-year-old voter Agustino Dos Santos. "I'm attracted to their programmes."

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", Mr Alkatiri told Metro TV, adding that corruption and mismanagement were the biggest problems for the leaders of the country.

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 such as health and education, got around 10 per cent of the vote.

The official result of Timor Leste's fourth parliamentary polls since independence in 2002 is expected to be announced by Aug 6.

More than 700,000 people had 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 neighbouring Indonesia in 1975.

The election will determine the choice of prime minister, the most influential political figure. The presidency is a largely ceremonial role but the occupant can help keep the peace between feuding politicians.

The new government of the tiny nation will face big challenges. Half of the population lives in poverty and the current government is struggling to improve the livelihoods of its people.

Dwindling output from the tiny nation's existing oil and gas fields - compounded by the slumping prices of the commodities - has hit the government's budget and crimped its ambition to develop manufacturing as an engine for economic growth. The country's leaders must also agree on a new sea border with Australia after tearing up a contentious maritime treaty that cuts through energy fields.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'Timor Leste's ruling parties likely to form next govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe