East Timor’s Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has urged his people to remain calm after they voted on Saturday for MPs who will determine a new prime minister and form a majority government to execute much-needed development programs in one of the world’s poorest countries.
“I appeal for the people to be calm, and for politicians and political parties to accept the results, because it was a very free and fair election. Whoever is defeated, it’s the people who really win the election,” Alkatiri said in an interview at a hotel near his Fretilin party’s headquarters.
Ballot-counting is still underway in the former Portuguese colony, but two political giants have expressed confidence that their respective party and coalition will win.
Alkatiri headed a minority government that collapsed after a three-party coalition led by former President and former Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao refused to approve the government’s budget.
Alkatiri said he is confident that his party will win more than 30 out of 65 seats in Parliament. His Fretilin party narrowly won the previous election in July 2017 by securing 23 seats.
“We’re already the winner,” he said after casting his vote. “Fretilin never lost a single election throughout its history.”
If his party wins, Alkatiri said the next government will work “to get poor people out of poverty. This is my target for the next five years.”
Every aspect of development is crucial, but what East Timorese need most are clean water, infrastructure and community housing.
Gusmao said he is confident his coalition will get more than the 35 seats it secured in last year’s election.
There are signs of electoral fraud, such as ink that washes out quickly and people who voted twice in different places, he added.
“In some places, there were fewer ballot papers than registered voters,” he said in an interview at his party’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) headquarters.
A spokesman for Gusmao’s Alliance for Change and Progress (AMP), Tiago Sarmento, said there are reports that six supporters’ homes were burnt down in Oecusse, an East Timor exclave surrounded by Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province on the western half of Timor Island.
Luis da Costa Ximenes, an election observer and director of the Dili-based conflict-prevention NGO Belun, said that the group identified 107 incidents during the one-month campaign period, including verbal abuse on social media from fake accounts.
Alkatiri said the incidents were minor, and the election was held in a “very professional” way.
“Show me one election in the world that is without a single incident,” he added.
There were 784,286 registered voters out of a population of 1.2 million in East Timor, which was annexed by Indonesia for 24 years before it voted for secession in 1999 and gained full independence in 2002. Official results will be announced on May 28 after verification from the High Court.
The story first appeared in Arab News