Subject: PM Alkatiri re-elected as FRETILIN chief with 93% support

East Timor: PM Alkatiri re-elected as FRETILIN chief with 93% support

Dili, May 19 (Lusa) - Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri was re- elected Friday as head of East Timor's governing FRETILIN party after earlier stymieing a leadership challenge from Ambassador José Guterres in the wake of recent unrest in the new nation.

Some 662 FRETLIN delegates from across Timor wound up a three- day Dili conference by voting to decide the party's top posts of secretary-general and president, with the names of Mari Alkatiri and parliamentary speaker Francisco Guterres, respectively, the sole candidates.

Alkatiri was re-elected as secretary-general with the support of 93.7% of delegates in a show of hands vote, a balloting method that FRETILIN had approved a day earlier in the face of a challenge to the prime minister`s leadership of the party.

The man hoping to topple Alkatiri as party leader, José Luis Guterres, Timor's ambassador to the United Nations and United States, withdrew his challenge Wednesday after FRETILIN decided to dump its usual secret ballot for leadership votes.

Guterres criticized the changing of FRETILIN's voting system, saying he didn't agree with archaic and non-transparent Leninist and Communist methods.

Some Dili analysts said the voting change would almost certainly have dissuaded many FRETILIN delegates with state jobs from opposing the prime minister.

Alkatiri said last week that he would step down as government chief if the leadership vote went against him.

In comments to Lusa Friday, Ambassador Guterres, a self- described "political moderate", said he believed the re-election of Alkatiri would lead to FRETILIN's defeat in legislative polls in 2007.

"Alkatiri is not in a position to lead FRETILIN to a new election victory", he said, adding that the prime minister had irrevocably harmed his party's electoral prospects by changing its voting method.

The Timorese diplomat said he would make every effort to reform FRETILIN from within and would not form a new party.


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