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Timor-Leste prays for pro-people government

Election results indicate present coalition likely set for five more years in power, despite weaker showing in polls

Timor-Leste prays for pro-people government

East Timorese line up to vote during parliamentary election in Dili on July 22. Timor-Leste headed to the polls to elect a new parliament as Asia's youngest democracy battles economic challenges 15 years after gaining its independence from Indonesia. (Photo by Valentino Darriel De Sousa/AFP)

Thomas Ora, Dili
Timor Leste

July 25, 2017

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Timor-Leste's parliamentary election ended peacefully over the weekend with the fledgling country looking set for five more years of coalition government led by the former resistance movement party, Fretelin, and the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction Party (CNRT).

Based on a preliminary count Fretilin won 23 seats, CNRT 22, People's Liberation Party 8, the Democratic Party (PD) 7 while the surprise was the "disenfranchised youth" party, Khunto, which won 5 seats.

Election monitor, Inocencio de Jesus Xavier, a program officer of the Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR) group, called the poll results a "new phenomenon" where trust in the big parties has begun to erode, in comparison with the 2012 election, where Fretelin gained 25 seats, CNRT won 30 seats, and the PD 8.

The results indicate people are beginning to move away from Fretelin and CNRT.

Ten years of their rule has not seen them come up with policies or programs that have touched the lives of the people, he said.

"Lack of clean water, bad roads, poor health and education facilities were not properly addressed [by CNRT]," Xavier told ucanews.com on July 24.

If the leading parties want to form a coalition they should aim to solve real problems in society instead concentrating on who gets what in government like in previous years, he said.

Ideally one of the two main parties should serve as the opposition, while the other form a government with the smaller groups, he said, adding that having an effective opposition in parliament could prompt the government to get something done.

He was referring to a mid-term change in the coalition after the last election in which CNRT suddenly formed a coalition in 2015 with Fretelin and appointed Rui Maria de Araujo as prime minister, leaving no opposition party in parliament.

According to Xavier, Fretelin should form a new government, with representatives from the smaller parties.

"The most important thing is to build roads in remote areas so people have easier access to towns, clean water, health and education facilities, agriculture, tourism," he said.

"The hope is that the new government should not be dependent on oil and gas, and look at other ways of generating revenue. Fretelin should lead the way."

Bishop Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva of Dili called on people and political parties to accept the results of the recent elections.

"People have exercised their rights peacefully, and no political elite should betray that," he said.

He also called for a government that aims to look out for the real needs of the people. 

The prelate said that the next government should prioritize education. 

"There are many schools that still lack fundamental necessities, such as books, library, laboratory, and decent school buildings," the prelate said.

Also, the new government needs to expand the agricultural sector to create more jobs particularly for young people so that they do not need to work abroad, the bishop said. 

Former president and premier, Xanana Gusmao, also called on all people and parties, including his own CNRT, to accept the results.

"Peace and stability are more important for Timor-Leste to show the world that we are capable of building a better democracy," he said.

The Timor-Leste Election Commission will announce official results of the polls in August.

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