From L-R in front: KHUNTO advisor José dos Santos ‘Naimori’; party president Armanda Berta dos Santos; and FRETILIN General Secretary Mari Alkatiri (Image/supplied)

DILI, 30 April 2020 (TATOLI)—Xanana Gusmão’s majority coalition has fractured, with KHUNTO declaring it will return its support to Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak’s government.

The announcement came in a letter to Mr Gusmão, signed yesterday by party president Armanda Berta dos Santos and Secretary-General José Agustinho da Silva.

“Because of the very difficult situation,” the pair write, “the KHUNTO party took the decision, considering the interest of the people…to leave the new coalition.”

The six-party coalition formed on February 22 in response to a long-running standoff over the 2020 General State Budget. The original six parties comprised of: Gusmão’s CNRT Party, PUDD, the Democratic Party (PD), UDT/Frente Mudança, and KHUNTO.

The alliance billed itself as the “alternative government”. However, the departure of KHUNTO takes away its 34 seat majority – in the 65-seat parliament.

Related news: Prime Minister Taur Resigns, Clearing the Path for New Coalition Government

The leaders of CNRT, PD, KHUNTO, PUDD and UDT/FM announce the new coalition on February 22. (Image/Egas Cristóvão)

KHUNTO Advisor, José dos Santos Naimori, told reporters this morning the party chose to leave the Gusmão coalition to “break the political deadlock”.

“All of us respect our leader Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, but we should look [after] our people and not extend the political deadlock and bring suffering to our people,” Mr Naimori said.

The decision marks the latest chapter in a restive recent history in Timor-Leste politics.

CNRT entered government with Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak’s PLP Party, and KHUNTO in 2018. The PM submitted his resignation earlier this year amid the ongoing impasse, but later withdrew it, to focus on tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

The letter acknowledges the “declaration of confidence” President  Francisco Guterres Lú-Olo has given to the prime minister to continue leading the government, and the fact that some KHUNTO members actively participate in the executive.

That is why “[KHUNTO] decided to give full support to the current Constitutional Government until the year 2023”, when the next elections are expected.

State of Emergency schism

On Tuesday, parliament voted to extend the county’s state of emergency measures for another month; a vote which divided the new alliance. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão vocally opposed extending the stiff restrictions, reportedly writing to his alliance colleagues questioning the President’s understanding of the pandemic.

Related news: Covid-19: President Lú-Olo Extends State of Emergency

“Will our people be able to survive because they will not have COVID-19, but hungry and without work?”, he reportedly wrote.

However, KHUNTO voted in favour of the extension. KHUNTO parliamentary leader António Nobre Amaral Tilman said it was important “to give the government time to create conditions to protect our people”.

António da Conçeição, from Alliance partners, the Democratic Party (Partido Democratic – PD) also voted for the extension, while his colleagues abstained. But Mr Conçeição yesterday called on the government to run television advertisements to explain the state of emergency more clearly.

António da Conçeição ‘Kalohan’ (Image/António Gonçalves)

“I think we need an stronger awareness campaign so our people can understand what exactly the state of emergency is… sometimes it might inconvenience many people because they’re used to being able to go to-and-fro, but now they’re confined because of Covid-19,” he said yesterday.

CNRT will hold an “urgent” meeting this afternoon with all of its parliamentarians.

Read our Tetum coverage here: PM Taur Sei La Remodela Governu; KHUNTO Deklara Retira Hosi Koligasaun Foun

Journalist: Hortencio Sanchez; Evaristo Soares Martins

Editors: Robert Baird, Agapito dos Santos, Cancio Ximenes

Translation: Nelia Borges

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