Tue, Aug 07, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Independence hero Gusmao to become East Timor's PM

AFP , DILI

East Timor independence hero Xanana Gusmao is to be appointed prime minister this week and will form a government following inconclusive polls in June, President Jose Ramos-Horta said yesterday.

"I have taken the decision to invite the Alliance of the Parliamentary Majority [AMP] to form the government," Ramos-Horta told reporters, referring to a coalition of parties headed by Gusmao.

"The AMP has proposed that leader Xanana Gusmao become the prime minister. I have accepted it," Ramos-Horta said, adding that the former president would be appointed to his new post tomorrow.

The decision provoked anger from former prime minister Mari Alkatiri, who told reporters at his residence earlier that he had already been informed of Ramos-Horta's decision.

"This is completely illegal and against our Constitution. That is why, the government, in this matter, will never have the cooperation of Fretilin because this is an illegal government," he said.

Fretilin, the former ruling party, won just 21 seats in the young nation's 65-seat parliament, well short of the absolute majority required to govern.

But it has said that as it won the most votes, it should have been asked to lead and would have invited other parties to form a unity government.

Fretilin also maintains that the alliance headed by Gusmao should be declared invalid as it was formed after the polls and not beforehand.

Gusmao's party, the National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor, won 18 seats in the June 30 polls but later formed a coalition which together holds 37 positions.

Ramos-Horta, a Nobel peace laureate, has the authority to decide the composition of the government as the Constitution is unclear on how to proceed under such an outcome.

He had earlier publicly pushed for a unity government.

June's parliamentary elections, the first since East Timor won independence in 2002, were supposed to open a new chapter in the nation's young democracy after more than a year of tensions and uncertainty.

In April and May last year, unrest rocked the streets of Dili, when factional fighting among security forces left at least 37 people dead and forced international peacekeepers to be dispatched to restore calm.

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