If the analysis below is true, FRETILIN could become history begining next election 2007.
EAST TIMOR: PM LIKELY NEW PRESIDENT SAYS EXPERT
Dili, 28 Feb. (AKI) - The former prime minister Mari Alkatiri is out of the running, and the current prime minister will likely be the new president, thus swopping roles with Xanana Gusmao who could head the government. This musical-chairs post-election scenario is outlined for Adnkronos International (AKI) by Damien Kingsbury, expert in East Timor and Indonesia, at Australia's Deakin University. The presidential elections are being held in East Timor on 9 April with the parliamentary polls following shortly afterwards. The situation in the tiny state has deteriorated after a fugitive rebel leader escaped with weapons over the weekend.
Hundreds of East Timorese villagers fled into the mountains on Wednesday as Australian troops surrounded the southern hideout of the nation's most wanted man, Alfredo Reinado. It renewed its call for the fugitive rebel leader to surrender peacefully.
The renewed push to arrest Reinado comes amid a deteriorating security situation and growing anti-Australian sentiment in East Timor, following the death of two Timorese youths shot by Australian troops last Friday.
"It is really a three cornered contest for the presidency, but I suspect that Ramos-Horta probably has the lead over Lu-Olo (Guterres) from Fretilin, with Fernando de Araujo from PD (Democratic Party) running third."
Among other little known candidates for the presidential post are lawyer Lucia Lobato and opposition MP Joao Carrascalao.
The real fireworks though are expected in the parliamentary elections where, according to Kingsbury, the candidature of Gusmao will spell the political demise of Alkatiri.
Gusmao has formed a political party, the National Council of Timorese Resistance, (CNRTe) and said he will run. The party is effectively a return to the past because CNRT is the name of the alliance which won the vote for independence from Indonesia in the 1999 referendum.
Kingsbury said that CNRT has already attracted progressive voters who have abandoned Fretilin.
Led by Alkatiri, Fretilin is the majority party, having won 55 of the
88 seats in the 2001 parliamentary elections. Alkatiri was forced to resign as prime minister last June after criticism of his leadership when violent clashes and disorder erupted and led to the decision to deploy foreign troops in Dili to restore order.
"Fretilin has already begun to split between the 'Maputo group' led by Alkatiri, and the 'reformists'. Many reformists are deserting to support Gusmao's new party CNRT," Kingbury said.
The pro-Alkatiri faction is called Maputo because most of them were exiled in Mozambique during the long and bloody pro independence struggle in East Timor.
Kingsbury thinks it probable that in the end the CNRT and the Democratic Party will unite in a coalition, closing the door of parliament to Fretilin.
The PD has also formed a coalition with three other small parties, and could do well. The remaining parties will probably join the coalition after the parliamentary elections.
As for parliament, if the CNRT and PD-coalition join forces, Fretilin is probably out of government.
"Anyhow, I suspect that the Maputo group is out in any scenario - the question will be about how and whether Fretilin can re-form afterwards," he said.