I really didn't talk about the elections in my last blog, though the content was vaguely relevant to my research. I'm still waiting to hear back about the website. One of the biggest problems with it is the simple fact that elections will be concluded in about 5 weeks time. By the time they officially launch the site, it will be only three weeks or so. So many of the people I researched and put up on the site will probably not be there when the new government is formed. It will have to be refreshed to a substantial degree and this fact was ever present in the back of my mind. Regardless, I think it's a pretty good effort and a solid starting point for future work.
Elections. Hmmm. Campaigning starts next week, Tuesday I believe. A lot of stuff has been going on at an internal level for several parties, two in particular I will talk about now.
ASDT and UNDERTIM have been experiencing some internal problems for a while now. In both parties there are essentially two factions, who coalesce around particular leaders. In ASDT there is Gil Alves, who is essentially pro CNRT and Xanana Gusmao, and Joao Correira, who is more sympathetic to FRETILIN. Gil Alves is a Minister in the current cabinet - soon to expire. Both held senior positions within the party under (Avo) Xavier do Amaral, the first president of the republic of Timor-Leste, and the president of ASDT. Avo Xavier passed away in late February or early March and this leadership vacuum was contested by Joao and Gil. In a nutshell, Gil claimed he was Sec Gen under Avo Xavier and the legitimate number two, the rightful ruler. Joao contested this. This was never resolved internally and it went to the Tribunal of Review. The question was put to the test when Gil put forward his list of candidates for the parliamentary elections for ASDT. Joao appealed this and was successful. The Tribunal found that Joao was the legitimate leader of ASDT and that he could submit a list for the elections. This meant Gil was frozen out.
What does this mean? It's a blow of sorts to XG. Gil was XG's man and one would have assumed that ASDT would support CNRT in forming a government had this remained the case. Now, with Joao in charge, it seems more likely that ASDT would be prepared to help FRETILIN out to form government. I wouldn't assume this as a definite thing, but the chances are greater than them joining CNRT. Not a major loss though, I suspect, for XG. Gil will bring his supporters and militantes over to CNRT.
UNDERTIM is a similar story. Cornelio Gama (L7) was in competition with a guy called Manubuy for the leadership of the party. I'm less familiar with this case but L7 did get behind TMR for president, as did CNRT, and has been a coalition partner in the current government. I'm not sure where Manubuy stand in regard to XG and FRETILIN. The dispute may not be over allegiences to XG or FRETILIN. There might be some money issues involved so I won't definitely say this has any impact on where UNDERTIM will stand when it comes to who joins who in trying to form government. To be honest, I could see UNDERTIM, particularly with its divisions, failing to gain any seats. They just scrapped in last time and there are more parties fighting for seats.
I might have to leave it to another blog, but my reading of the likely outcomes of the election is that CNRT and FRETILIN will maintain a similar level of support and number of seats. PD has the potential to do better then 2007 because Ramos Horta is with them. They could gain enough support to be a serious player when it comes to forming government; they could potentially join the big two as a large party - not an absolute put it really could happen. I think that PSD will okay and remain a medium sized party. ASDT will be a bit player this time around. Perhaps 2-3 other parties at the most will get seats. I wouldn't be surprised to see only 5 parties in the chamber in 2012. A consolidation of the vote in a smaller number of parties could happen. Even if there are smaller parties, they may be relegated to effectively a non-role in parliament. If PD gets enough seats, a government could form between them and either CNRT or FRETILIN. I think there is little doubt that XG is frustrated having to deal with so many partners in his cabinet and parliamentary alliance. Working with only one other party would be undoubtedly preferable. I think this would be a good outcome to be honest, more stability and predictability would be beneficial at this juncture. Can I rule out CNRT and FRETILIN forming a government together. It's a rumour that won't go away here. It seems unlikely, it would depend mostly on FRETILIN moderating itself and playing nice and sharing the toys with the other children. XG has shown he will work with anyone so I wouldn't say it's impossible. Most likely is one of them working with PD.
Where does PD stand?
Hard to say. Lots of mixed signals. With JRH on board and his agenda, supposedly, to block or punish XG, an alliance with FRETILIN is certainly possible. The problem is with their support base. For many of them, FRETILIN is not a party they would want be associated with. CNRT would be their preference. I'm not convinced that JRH is out to 'get Xanana'. Perhaps he wants to strengthen PD so he can make greater demands from CNRT if the two of them were to form government. Word is, that he wants a Ministry, probably defence. Then again, the leadership of PD is supposedly split over CNRT. Some of them are fed up with XG. XG threw of theirs, a minister - Arcangelo Leite- to the lions. He's up for corruptions charges.
My feeling is, is that XG is out to split PD. Reduce it's power and significance. Classic divide and conquer. He knows PD could be a strong player and he wants to wipe it out, or at lest weaken it. He probably estimates he can slice of a section of PD that is pro-CNRT and XG and get them behind CNRT.CNRT has recently been denying that they are worried about the reverse happening because of JRH. JRH has been - apparently - trying to attract supporters from CNRT to join PD. It is so hard to read what's going on here. Predictions are hard to make.
I think I'll leave it here for the moment. Talk soon!