East Timor independence fighter set to become PM again

Xanana Gusmao, independence hero and the country's first president, shows his ink-stained finger after voting in the general election in Dili, East Timor, on May 12, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 May 2018

East Timor independence fighter set to become PM again

  • With the votes counted so far, the AMP is set to win at least 34 seats in the 65-seat Parliament
  • The country’s revenue mainly comes from its oil and gas sector, which contributed around 70 percent to GDP, according to World Bank

DILI: Ballot-counting almost finished in East Timor on Sunday, with a three-party coalition headed by independence fighter Xanana Gusmao leading in the vote, making him likely to be prime minister for the third time in one of the world’s youngest nations.

The Alliance for Change and Progress (AMP) is ahead with 49.41 percent, while the Fretilin party, whose Secretary-General Mari Alkatiri is incumbent prime minister, is second with 34.34 percent, according to data from the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration.

As of Sunday afternoon, 607,272 votes, or 98.26 percent, had been counted, but the final result is expected by Monday morning.

With the votes counted so far, the AMP is set to win at least 34 seats in the 65-seat Parliament, while Fretilin is likely to win 23, similar to what it achieved in last year’s election.

The result is expected to end months of political gridlock that has delayed development programs in the country, which voted to secede from Indonesia in 1999 and gained full independence in 2002.

An AMP source told Arab News that Gusmao, a former president and prime minister, will reassume the premiership and Taur Matan Ruak, a former president and head of the People’s Liberation Party — which is part of the AMP coalition — will be a deputy prime minister.

Arif Abdullah Sagran, a local political observer, said he is pessimistic that a government led by Gusmao will bring any change to development and social welfare in East Timor.

“Gusmao’s programs were always populist. They looked good only in the short term,” Sagran told Arab News, adding that Fretilin will not be much of a challenge to the future ruling coalition.

“The challenge will come from within the AMP, because the three parties that make up the coalition are very different from one another. The only thing that unites them is that they were facing the same opposition.”

Both sides refused to comment on the results until they become official at the end of the month after verification by the High Court.

Arlindo Amaral, a 38-year-old taxi driver who voted for Fretilin, said whatever the election outcome, what matters most is that all parties should be willing to work together to push for development in East Timor.

“The next government should be able to create more jobs, provide better electricity and clean water, and make their campaign promises a reality,” he told Arab News.

Youth unemployment remains high at 11 percent, according to the World Bank, and about 65 percent of East Timor’s population of 1.2 million is below 25 years old.

President Francisco Guterres called for elections after he dissolved Parliament in January following the collapse of the Fretilin-led minority government, which failed to secure Parliament’s approval for its budget and program.

The country’s revenue mainly comes from its oil and gas sector, which contributed around 70 percent to gross domestic product (GDP), which in 2016 was $1.783 billion, according to the World Bank.


Greece moves more migrants to mainland as arrivals increase

Updated 3 min 57 sec ago

Greece moves more migrants to mainland as arrivals increase

  • Some 697 migrants and refugees arrived in the port of Elefsina near Athens from the island of Samos
  • Greece is struggling with the biggest resurgence in refugee and migrant flows across the Aegean Sea from Turkey since 2015

ATHENS: Authorities in Greece moved more asylum-seekers to the mainland on Tuesday as part of a strategy to reduce the refugee population on outlying islands after an increase in arrivals in recent months.

Some 697 migrants and refugees arrived in the port of Elefsina near Athens from the island of Samos, officials said. Earlier, 120 people arrived from Lesbos.

Greece is struggling with the biggest resurgence in refugee and migrant flows across the Aegean Sea from Turkey since 2015, when more than a million crossed into Europe, many of them via Greece.

The islands, which are closest to Turkey, have been struggling under the influx, with some 33,700 refugees and migrants in overcrowded camps, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

In late September, a woman died in a fire in a tent in a camp on Lesbos, while another fire in a severely overcrowded camp in Samos forced hundreds of people into the streets this month.

“Our focus was mainly on Samos because we want things there to calm down,” migration ministry secretary Manos Logothetis told Reuters.

More than 12,000 people arrived in Greece in September, the highest level in the three-and-a-half years since the EU agreed a deal with Turkey to seal the Aegean corridor to Europe.

Logothetis said up to 300 more people would be leaving Samos this week, and up to 2,000 from all outlying islands next week. Greece aims to move up to 20,000 off the islands by the end of the year, he said.

Athens has announced a stricter migration policy to deal with the crisis, including plans to deport 10,000 people who do not qualify for asylum by the end of next year.