14 July 2012

East Timor ruling party wins 30 seats

AAP July 13, 2012 11:08PM - THE ruling party of East Timor resistance hero Xanana Gusmao has won 30 seats in parliament, according to a final count on Friday from last weekend's vote, and will need to form a coalition to govern.

Gusmao's centre-left National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) is three seats shy of the 33 needed for an absolute majority in the 65-seat parliament which would allow him to remain prime minister.

The national electoral commission count of Saturday's vote showed that the main opposition left-wing Fretilin party had come second with 25 seats.

The Democratic Party (PD), a member of the previous ruling coalition, won eight seats, while Frente-Mudanca grabbed two.

The CNRT said it would decide on Sunday which party to team up with. If it is unable to form a majority, Fretilin and PD could join forces and lead parliament.

Friday's results need to be confirmed by the nation's supreme court before being officially declared, and parties have 48 hours to complain to the court of appeals.

Preliminary results given on Sunday had said CNRT had won 31 seats, and Fretilin 24. The count for the other two parties remained unchanged.

The results set the stage for negotiations to form a coalition, amid concerns that drawn-out, post-election wrangling could reignite violence in the energy-rich but deeply poor state.

The vote was a key test for the fragile democracy, which celebrated a decade of formal independence in May.

The UN sees the polls - and their aftermath - as the last big test that will decide whether its remaining 1,300 peacekeepers and other security staff can withdraw.

Wrangling over a coalition generated weeks of tensions after the 2007 elections.

Presidential polls that were held over two rounds in March and April passed peacefully, and there was no major violence linked to the parliamentary polls.

In the last legislative elections in 2007, the CNRT won three fewer seats than Fretilin, but Gusmao's party won out in the post-election horse-trading to lead a coalition government with three smaller parties.

Following the end of Portuguese rule in 1975, East Timor was occupied by Indonesia for 24 years. Some 183,000 people died from fighting, disease and starvation before the half-island state voted for independence in 1999.

The country has offshore fields of oil and natural gas and its petroleum fund has swelled to $10 billion, but corruption is endemic.

Half of East Timor's 1.1 million people are officially classified as living in poverty, posing the main challenge for the future government.

Gusmao, 66, is a hero of the resistance who was thrust into the world of politics after his landslide victory in the 2002 presidential election.

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