Subject: AFP: ETimor's Fretilin vows boycott until unity govt formed

ETimor's Fretilin vows boycott until unity govt formed

Dili, Aug. 3 (AFP) - East Timor's Fretilin party said Thursday its lawmakers would boycott parliament until it is asked to form a government by the president following national elections in June.

The move is the latest twist in wrangling between parties since the polls, which were supposed to open a new chapter in the young nation's democracy after a year of tensions and uncertainty.

The former ruling party Fretilin won 21 seats in the 65-seat parliament, well short of the majority needed to govern. But its ex-prime minister Mari Alkatiri said it should be asked to rule, and would invite others to lead with it.

"We have the constitutional right to chose the premier and form the government, but the election results were such that we must open the door to all political parties which sit at the national parliament," he told reporters at his residence.

A new party set up this year by former president and national hero Xanana Gusmao has formed a coalition with smaller parties however that give it 37 seats, and it too wishes to govern.

The constitution is unclear on how to proceed, but gives final authority to decide to the president, Jose Ramos-Horta, who has been pushing publicly for the parties to form a unity government.

Alkatiri said Ramos-Horta planned to ask Gusmao's coalition to rule.

"We have no option than to use the single instrument that we still have - to refuse participation at the parliament until an agreement is made," he said, adding that the party saw a unity government as being the most stable option.

He said Fretilin lawmakers had refused to turn up to work on Wednesday and Thursday, and "we will have to keep doing this until an agreement is struck."

Alkatiri, who was forced to step down last year after deadly unrest on Dili's streets, said Fretilin proposed a unity government with an independent prime minister and two deputies, one each from Fretilin and the coalition.

The head of one of the parties in Gusmao's coalition, known as the Alliance of the Parliament Majority (AMP), meanwhile insisted it had the right to choose the premier.

"The AMP cannot accept a formation of government which does not come from the AMP itself," Mario Carrascalao told reporters, adding that the coalition wanted to nominate Gusmao as prime minister.

AMP spokesman Mariano Sabino said that a boycott by Fretilin would not affect the functioning of parliament.

"The election was for a national parliament, so if Fretilin no longer wants to sit in parliament, they will have to account to the people who voted for them," he said.

Ramos-Horta had been expected to announce his decision on how to proceed on Wednesday but parliamentary speaker Fernando de Araujo said after meeting with him that it would now probably take place Monday. "Our country is still in a crisis that has not yet ended, so to all political leaders: let us settle everything through mutual dialogue, through the law and the constitution," he said.

The June 30 polls followed more than a year of sporadic violence and political tension in East Timor following unrest on Dili's streets that left at least 37 people dead in April and May last year.

East Timor is rich in oil and gas deposits but currently has one of the world's poorest economies. It also faces massive security and social problems, with some 10 percent of its million-strong population still living in camps after last year's bloodshed.

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