Subject: AFP: Gusmao's party tipped to win Timor polls despite lack of policies: ICG

Agence France Presse

June 13, 2007

Gusmao's party tipped to win Timor polls despite lack of policies: ICG

Samantha Brown

JAKARTA, June 13 2007

The new party of East Timor's ex-president Xanana Gusmao appears likely to head a government after parliamentary polls this month despite a lack of policies to lure voters, a report said Wednesday.

The International Crisis Group said that ahead of the June 30 polls, personalities rather than party platforms were swaying East Timor's voters and that no party was offering concrete solutions to the tiny country's problems.

Gusmao, a former independence fighter who remains popular across the impoverished half-island nation, has formed a new party in a bid to take the prime ministership after stepping down as president last month.

But his party, the Congresso Nacional De Reconstrucao de Timor-Leste (CNRT), "has a poorly developed structure, no policies and little more going for it than its leader's charisma," the ICG report said.

"That, however, may be sufficient," it added, noting that based on last month's presidential polls, the CNRT is likely to win 20 to 25 percent of the vote and then ally with smaller parties to form a parliamentary majority.

Gusmao's ally, President and Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, won 22 percent of the vote in the first round and 69 percent of the presidential run-off.

A CNRT-led coalition, the Brussels-based think tank said, would be more consultative and transparent than the Fretilin-led government of Mari Alkatiri, though it may be less cohesive and less competent in economic management.

Of all the parties contesting the polls, only Fretilin, the ICG said, "seems to have any understanding of the complex technical issues involved in management of revenues and regulation of the petroleum sector."

East Timor has more than one billion dollars from oil and gas revenues locked away in a Petroleum Fund, and a debate over how, and how quickly, the money should be spent has emerged.

Fretilin has dominated parliament since East Timor officially gained independence from Indonesia after decades of occupation in 2002.

Alkatiri was forced however to resign last year amid unrest in the wake of his sacking of around a third of the army.

Street battles between rival security factions led to at least 37 deaths and forced Dili to ask for international peacekeepers to be dispatched to restore a fragile calm.

The ICG said that a CNRT-led coalition would be in a better position to address the political and social divides exposed by last year's bloodshed and more open to advice on how to rebuild and strengthen national institutions.

"But implementation of programmes... will depend not just on political will, but also on professional skills," it warned.

The ICG noted that Gusmao was not widely seen as a promising prime minister "because of his impatience with detail, among other things," so his advisers are recommending he have two deputies.

The report also warned that while presidential elections were largely peaceful, "accusations and inflammatory rhetoric may feature heavily in the parliamentary campaign in a way that could heighten tensions and lead to more violence."

Nevertheless, the fact that the presidential vote took place with few serious incidents showed that the country may emerge from last year's crisis more easily than first thought, it concluded.

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