Minnow could be key to Gusmao's future

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am

With about half the vote counted in East Timor's parliamentary elections, the crucial role of the minor parties has become more clear - and the head of the small Democrat Party is emerging as the potential key to Xanana Gusmao's future.

Fernando 'Lasama' de Araujo says he supports the former president's party ahead of the ruling Fretilin party, but some issues still need to be resolved.

With the support of the Democratic Party and its allied bloc, Mr Gusmao's National Congress for East Timor Reconstruction (CNRT) party is on track for achieving a razor-thin majority. However, it was unclear whether Mr Lasama supported Mr Gusmao to be prime minister.

'We do not have any significant differences with Xanana, but there are still issues to discuss,' he said.

With more than 250,000 votes tallied, Fretilin was leading with about 30.1 per cent, compared to CNRT's 22.1 per cent. Behind them are the Timorese Social Democratic Association/Social Democrat Party with 16.7 per cent and the Democrat Party with 11.6 per cent.

The two minor parties have a pre-election agreement to stick together in government or in opposition.

East Timor's law calls for a party or a coalition to control an absolute majority in parliament in order to form a government. This small-party support is therefore essential to Mr Gusmao if he is to snatch power away from Fretilin.

In regards to joining CNRT in power, Mr Lasama's doubts centre on the presence of Fretilin Mudansa within Gusmao's party.

Fretilin Mudansa is a reformist wing of Fretilin that supported CNRT during the election, after strong disagreements with Mari Alkatiri, the secretary-general of Fretilin. It is still unclear whether Fretilin Mudansa will stay in government with the CNRT or return to Fretilin and push for a change in leadership.

'We would still consider working with Fretilin Mudansa, but we need to understand their views on several issues,' Mr Lasama said.

Mr Lasama, a student activist during the resistance who spent seven years in prison in Jakarta around the same time as Mr Gusmao, rejected the principle of an all-encompassing government of unity, as advocated by President Jose Ramos Horta.

'We do not agree with this principle, but we would like to use the best human resources available in the country to push for reforms,' he said, underlining that the party does not rule out working with some of the most capable ministers from Fretilin.