Subject: Unstable Coalitions Predicted After E.Timor Vote
- ABC Transcript: Unstable coalitions predicted after Timor vote
- SCMP: Hopes dim for political peace in E Timor
- IHT: East Timor expected to elect new government
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) June 29, 2007 -transcripts-
Unstable coalitions predicted after Timor vote
MARK COLVIN: It's been a long year for East Timor.
The crisis which erupted violently 12 months ago culminates tomorrow in a poll electing a new parliament and eventually a new Prime Minister.
The controversial circumstances of Mari Alkatiri's ousting from the Prime Ministership broke Fretilin's hold on East Timor's politics.
It also inspired the man who used to lead Fretilin's military activities against Indonesia, former President Xanana Gusmao to form a new party.
That party hopes to come out on top tomorrow.
But outright majorities are much less likely than unstable coalitions as our correspondent Geoff Thompson reports from Dili.
(sound of political campaign rally)
GEOFF THOMPSON: Five years ago, Fretilin was synonymous with East Timor's identity as a new, unified nation.
But now, it's just as much a symbol of the country's divisions.
But you wouldn't know it here, at the campaign rally finale for the Party at Dili Sport Stadium. Draped and painted, in red, yellow and black from head to toe, the Party's youth get high on a temporary diversion form the grinding reality of having little work, or other ways of spending their time.
A year ago, many of them would have been roaming the streets on rampages of destruction. So this loud but peaceful politicking is progress nevertheless.
While he says he does not wish to regain the PMs job, on stage it's clear that Mari Alkatiri has learnt some valuable political lessons to. He smiles and sings a long with the crowd while holding a baby, looking every a bit the populist politician he admits he never managed to be when he was Prime Minister.
MARI ALKATIRI: This is the reality, we failed in communicate all what we have done to the people. That's the reason why we were commended by the international community (inaudible) years. The tremendous achievement we have made in this country.
GEOFF THOMPSON: Few foreign analysts criticise the job Fretilin did as economic managers. But the distribution of arms to civilians by the jailed, former Interior Minister, Rogerio Lobato, sealed Mari Alkatiri's fall from grace.
(sound of political protest rally)
It's into the gap left behind, that Xanana Gusmao's new Party, CNRT, hopes to rise. Posters around Dili show the former Resistance leader alongside towering skyscrapers, reminiscent of Gold Coast development and even one, boasting East Timor's own satellite and fighter jets.
But in the real world, he's running for Office, based on the pitch that he stands for everything that Fretilin does not.
SUPPORTER (translated): Two or three people leading the big political party have broken our nation's unity and stability, he tells his supporters. They've made the people suffer and the nation sick, he says.
(sound of clapping and cheering from the crowd)
GEOFF THOMPSON: Mari Alkatiri remains bitterly critical of East Timor's former President, saying that Xanana Gusmao thinks, "he is commander of all East Timorese and as a leader, has little more than charisma in his quiver."
MARI ALKATIRI: Xanana Gusmao has no skill as a, to be a Prime Minister. He like very much to have everybody under him and under his command. This is the only way he like to do the things.
GEOFF THOMPSON: Just who would be elected to guide East Timor out of its current crisis is likely to be decided by smaller parties. The biggest among them is the Democratic Party, known as PD, and expects to side with Gusmao's CNRT. Last time round, in ran second to Fretilin and has a huge following among East Timor's disgruntled youth.
Preliminary results on the percentages of votes going to the 14 parties running should be known by early next week. But the exact composition of any ruling Coalition, may not be known for weeks.
South China Morning Post June 29, 2007
Hopes dim for political peace in E Timor
Fabio Scarpello in Dili
East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta has urged that whichever party wins tomorrow's parliamentary elections should form a unity government to heal divisions in the country, which recently verged on the brink of civil war.
But the Nobel laureate's wish seems to be in vain as the two main parties keep blaming each other for last year's chaos and refuse even to contemplate working together under the current leadership.
"There is nothing that CNRT can offer us. Xanana and his men are not competent to govern," said Mari Alkatiri, Fretilin secretary-general, referring to former president Xanana Gusmao and his party, the National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor.
Fretilin and CNRT are favourites to establish the new 65-member parliament.
The Democratic Party is viewed as a strong outsider.
"Xanana is dishonest. He was always the president of the opposition, against Fretilin. And now, during the campaign, CNRT is acting as if it is above the law," said Mr Alkatiri, listing various alleged CNRT transgressions.
"The crisis was Xanana's fault. It was his March 23  speech that divided the country."
Mr Alkatiri was forced to step down as prime minister one year ago after a split within the army escalated into a national crisis.
In the controversial speech, Mr Gusmao attacked Mr Alkatiri's decision to approve the dismissal of roughly 600 soldiers who had gone on strike.
The soldiers were from western districts of the country. They were complaining of discrimination by officers from the east.
Mr Gusmao called the dismissals "incorrect and unjust" but agreed there was discrimination in the army. Some observers noted that Mr Gusmao's speech placed him, symbolically, at the helm of the disenfranchised soldiers and helped to keep them under control.
But others said his words led to more violence, with eastern and western civilians settling old scores, under the excuse provided by the divisions within the army.
More than 130 people have been killed since then, despite the presence of foreign peacekeeping troops.
"This is a special society. For example, Fretilin should have paid attention to the veterans of the war, who lost the opportunity to have a proper education and a good salary," said Mr Soares, adding poverty, education and the health system to the areas that Fretilin allegedly neglected nationwide.
"Instead they paid attention to themselves, passing a pension law that even looks after former prime ministers."
CNRT has strongly condemned the just-passed Amnesty Law, as well, which seems to offer a way out for most of last year's crimes.
Even so, Mr Soares did not reject the possibility of working with Fretilin in government.
"We would consider it, if there were substantial changes within Fretilin," he said, hinting at a change in the current leadership.
Mr Alkatiri has said he will not seek to lead the next government.
International Herald Tribune June 29, 2007
East Timor expected to elect new government
By Seth Mydans
DILI, East Timor: During the past week, convoys of vans and trucks have wound through the streets of this tiny seaside capital loaded with chanting, cheering men and women. When people threw rocks at them, they ducked.
It was the high point of a parliamentary campaign in this poor and crime-ridden country where rock throwing is not uncommon. Officials described the campaign as unexpectedly peaceful.
On Saturday, East Timor elects a new government that analysts say they expect to upend the political order but do little to address the paralyzing poverty and disarray in the country.
The new government is likely to be less cohesive and even less effective than the last one, said Sophia Cason of International Crisis Group.
"The challenge will be to get people to understand that things aren't going to change overnight," she said. "They might still be poor and unemployed for a long time to come."
Nearly eight years after its violent separation from Indonesia, East Timor, which was at first seen as a success story in nation-building by the United Nations, may instead be a demonstration of the limits of nation-building.
The world body administered East Timor until its formal nationhood in 2002, but this little country of one million people still clings to the helping hands of the last few hundred foreign mentors and 3,000 peacekeepers.
"The international community perhaps withdrew its support for Timor Leste a bit early," said Atul Khare, an Indian diplomat who heads the much-reduced UN mission in East Timor, using the formal name of the new country.
In any case it seems there was no overcoming the country's fundamental ailments - its shortage of resources and of skilled and educated people, its lack of experience as an independent nation, its underlying social rifts and the traumas of 24 years of war in which as much as one-fourth of the population died.
East Timor was a Portuguese colony for 400 years until it was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and now is governing itself for the first time.
When Indonesia withdrew in 1999, after East Timor voted for independence, it took with it most of the civil servants and technicians who had made the territory function. Together with local militias, the Indonesian military carried out a scorched-earth policy that destroyed 80 percent of the buildings in East Timor.
Today, more than 40 percent of the work force is unemployed, one in five people have run out of food to eat and a similar proportion is living in tents or shelters, afraid to go home more than a year after a military mutiny led to a wave of arson and killings.
"All the chaos and burning and looting, and no more home," said Ana Guteres, 45, as she sat by her refugee tent, describing a sort of neighborhood ethnic-cleansing in this multiclan city. "If we go back and repair our house, people will start burning again."
The East Timorese health, education and judicial services barely function. Illiteracy, infant mortality and disease run high. Gangs of unemployed young men loiter aimlessly in the hot sun and make the streets dangerous at night.
The shells of buildings burned in 1999 stand in graffiti-covered ruins even in the heart of this threadbare little city, an emblem of the lethargy that envelops the country.
"East Timor is like waking up from a collapse, like a paralysis," said Isidoro dos Santos Correia, 24, who works with an American aid group. "The main thing is that people are just expecting promises. The mentality in Dili is wanting to be helped."
He added: "Many people are gambling. They say, 'The law doesn't exist any more.' "
The returning exiles who dominate the government have imposed Portuguese as the primary language in a nation where the police, lawyers and a large portion of Parliament mostly speak Indonesian, the language of their more recent colonizers.
"You end up in a place where no one really implements the law because no one really knows what it is," Cason said.
Partly because of this, the East Timor judiciary is "a total scandal," said David Cohen, director of the Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
"What's wrong? Where do you start?" he said of the justice system. "Incompetence. Corruption. Nepotism. Lack of oversight. Lack of accountability. The Portuguese language. All the draft laws only exist in Portuguese, and 95 percent of the people in the country can't read them."
Another underlying issue is land ownership in a country where disputes led to violence even before most records were destroyed in 1999. These disputes are one of the roots of problems like joblessness and population displacement, said Katherine Hunter, the representative of the Asia Foundation, a nongovernmental organization, in East Timor.
The election Saturday is fratricidal, pitting against each other former allies in the struggle for independence from Indonesia.
Xanana Gusmão, the hero of independence who has served for the past five years in the largely ceremonial presidency, is expected by most analysts to become the next prime minister by defeating Mari Alkatiri, who heads Fretilin, the governing party that grew out of the independence struggle.
The campaign has been acrimonious, with both candidates breaking a pledge to refrain from personal attacks.
"He still thinks he is the commander of the resistance," Alkatiri said of Gusmão at his final campaign rally Wednesday. "His principle is to try to control everything by himself. But I'd better stop talking about Xanana."
Fourteen parties are competing for the 65 parliamentary seats, and the winner is likely to need to form an unwieldy coalition government.
In May, José Ramos-Horta, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his campaign against the Indonesian occupation, was elected president and is expected to be a Gusmão ally if the latter wins.
Ramos-Horta served as prime minister after Alkatiri was forced to step down following the upheavals of May 2006. Ramos-Horta's victory, with nearly 70 percent of the vote, was a defeat for Alkatiri's Fretilin party and was seen as a forerunner of a Gusmão victory Saturday.
Elections are what East Timor does best. Its revolution was a nationwide vote, in which its people defied threats and violence from the Indonesian-backed militias.
The elections have not yet brought prosperity, but against the odds, they seem still to give rise to hope.
"Many political parties are talking about what they will do," said Marcos Barros, 39, a teacher, sitting by his refugee tent on the grounds of the school where he works. "We want the new government to bring peace and love and harmony."
ETimor's wanna-be pumpkin farmer tipped for PM
DILI, June 29 (AFP) -- Kay Rala "Xanana" Gusmao, tipped to be East Timor's next prime minister after elections Saturday, has always insisted he has no passion for politics and would prefer to be farming pumpkins.
But the sprightly, charismatic 61-year-old, who stepped down after five years as president last month, is again casting aside his bucolic ambitions in a bid for the tiny, resource-rich but impoverished nation's most powerful job.
The party he founded in the wake of violence that wracked Dili in April and May last year is expected to win the highest number of the 65 seats up for grabs this weekend -- though not the absolute majority needed to govern alone.
But his National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor is likely to form a coalition in order to oust the ruling Fretilin party headed by Gusmao's nemesis, Mari Alkatiri.
If he is appointed prime minister, it will be just the latest in a series of political incarnations for Gusmao.
He shepherded East Timor to independence via a three-decade journey from peaceful campaigning against Portuguese colonialists, to guerrilla warfare against Indonesia and political imprisonment in Jakarta.
Gusmao was already involved with a group seeking East Timor's independence when Indonesian troops poured into the territory in 1975 and the Portuguese withdrew.
The invasion was a turning point for the young nationalist, who took to the hills to fight the occupiers, leaving behind his wife and children to become a guerrilla leader in a move that would cement his popularity for years to come.
The rebels, despite limited resources, managed to stretch Indonesia's military with small-scale attacks across East Timor. But in 1992 Gusmao was captured, accused of subversion and jailed.
He continued to direct the resistance movement from behind bars in Jakarta. He also painted and wrote poetry, earning him the sobriquet of the "poet warrior."
During his incarceration Gusmao began corresponding with the woman who would become his second wife, Australian aid worker Kirsty Sword, with whom he has three children.
The downfall of the dictator Suharto ushered in a new era of democracy for Indonesia, and allowed Gusmao to glimpse freedom.
He was moved from jail and placed under house arrest in 1999, before being freed altogether that same year, hours after his compatriots voted for independence in a UN-administered referendum.
He received a hero's welcome on his triumphant return to the capital, Dili.
Publicly Gusmao has always insisted he did not want to be president, but pressure from colleagues led him to run for the post in 2002.
"I always said I would like to be a pumpkin farmer. It is still my dream," he has said. "I never ever wanted to be president."
Nevertheless, he continues to wield strong political influence.
He threatened to resign last year during violent turmoil, the worst in the nation's short history since its formal independence in 2002, unless the prime minister at the time -- Alkatiri -- took responsibility.
The president's stance helped to push Alkatiri out. The leadership passed to Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, who then stepped down to successfully run as Gusmao's replacement in presidential polls held in April and May this year.
Gusmao did not however emerge untarnished from last year's violence, which left 37 people dead and forced about 150,000 people to flee from their homes.
Andrea Bartoli, from the Centre for International Conflict resolution at New York's Colombia University, said the former president was "damaged goods" after he made remarks seen as inflaming ethnic tensions at the heart of the deadly violence.
"That said, he is still nearly universally respected as the man who delivered East Timor from oppression," he told AFP.
Despite his popularity, there is some question about his ability to handle the demanding position.
"Few outside CNRT think that he would make a good prime minister because of his impatience with detail, among other things," the International Crisis Group said in a report earlier this month.
His party, the Brussels-based thinktank said, has a poorly developed structure, no policies and little more going for it than its leader's charisma.
"That may be sufficient, however," it concluded.
------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service