by Tim Anderson
The outcome of Timor Leste's parliamentary election could be seen as a political victory for former President and now Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão. Some factors are running in his favour; but there are substantial challenges.
Xanana has managed to sideline Fretilin (still the strongest political force in the country) for the time being. His Parliamentary Majority Alliance (AMP), created after the election, has a new constellation of Ministers and Secretaries of State. Fretilin still regards the process by which the AMP was installed as unconstitutional, but has abandoned the idea of a legal challenge.
Xanana's alliance inherits a budget which has more than doubled, thanks to increased petroleum royalties. Further, the Howard Government has rewarded with increased aid what it sees as a more pro-Australian regime. A Rudd Government has already committed to increased aid and scholarships for the entire region.
In a clever move, Xanana has contracted the services of former Victorian Labor Premier Steve Bracks, as an adviser. This will give him an excellent line of communication with the likely incoming Labor Government in Canberra.
However an increased budget and Australian support may not be enough. Xanana has used up much of his political capital in coming to power. He has undermined the political parties he helped create and now dominates and relies on a disparate group with little collective political will.
The strongest group in the new Ministry is the conservative Social Democratic Party (PSD), with links to the old UDT. Xanana's National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (the new 'CNRT'), despite being the major party in the AMP, remains more an umbrella group than a party. The Democratic Party (PD), formerly the major opposition party, now has less influence.
Nationalists are thin on the ground. Two of the new ministers and at least three of the Secretaries of State backed the 1999 'autonomy' option with Indonesia. Graffiti in Dili reminds them of this, and of their links with militia violence.