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Xanana Gusmao appointed as Timor Leste’s Prime Minister amidst waves of violence

Updated On: Aug 10, 2007

Timor Leste (East Timor) finally has a new prime minister, a month after the inconclusive general election in which there was no parties that won a clear majority.

Elected lawmakers failed to break the deadlock on the formation of a government. President Ramos Horta finally decided to use his constitutional powers to appoint former president, Xanana Gusmao, as the Prime Minister.

Xanana Gusmao was sworn in as Prime Minister on 8 August, amid  refusal from the ruling Fretilin Party to fully endorse it. The controversial decision by President Horta has sparked attacks and violence from unsatisfied Fretilin supporters. Since end of July, violence and clashes between rival gangs have been ongoing triggered by the uncertainty in the negotiation of the composition of a new government.   

As reported by Antara, in the June 30 general election, Fretilin won 21 seats in the 65-member parliament. Gusmao`s brand-new National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor (CNRT) came second with 18 seats and formed a coalition with three other parties to give it 37 seats. Fretilin argued that its leader Alkatiri should be the new PM because it had more seats in the parliament and called the decision illegal. External parties such as Australia and the United States, however, endorsed Gusmao as the new East Timor PM.

Gusmao pledged to bring peace and restore unity to the tiny nation during his inauguration in Dili. As quoted by Jakarta Post, he also said he would introduce "radical reforms" in the security sector, a reference to the military mutiny last year that led to violence and the collapse of the last government.

With Gusmao finally taking office, Fretilin's Mari Alkatiri, who stepped down as prime minister following violence last year, promised on Tuesday (7 August) to ask his supporters to quell the trouble. However, about 100 Fretilin supporters held a brief protest Wednesday outside the main government office as the new cabinet members arrived.

Last year's clashes between military and police factions and youth gangs will continue to haunt Gusmao's new government. About 10 percent of the population is leaving in refugee camps. Prime Minister Gusmao will face other serious problems such as 50% unemployment, youth rebels and weak health care and education systems. (9 August 2007)

Sources

Ruling Fretilin refuses to endorse planned East Timor government (Antara, 7 August 2007)

East Timor`s parliament sits without government (Antara, 30 July 2007)

Police fire tear gas to disperse East Timor gangs (Antara, 24 July 2007)

Gusmao sworn in as East Timor PM amid violence (Jakarta Post, 8 August 2007)

Xanana Gusmao sworn in as East Timor PM (Antara, 8 August 2007)