DILI, East Timor (AP) — East Timor’s new government suffered a defeat in parliament when a coalition of opposition parties vetoed its policy program.
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said that losing the parliamentary vote Thursday was like “poison to his government.”
Alkatiri’s Fretilin party formed a minority government after parliamentary elections in July failed to give any party a majority of seats. But his opponents argued that the minority government was unconstitutional and that his policy program didn’t address the fledgling country’s problems.
New elections are a possibility because Alkatiri’s coalition may not be able to pass a budget.
Alkatiri said he will travel around East Timor to explain what happened in parliament. He accused other parties of being obstructive.
“We have just started,” he said, urging East Timorese to remain calm. “Drink your tea, drink your coffee, because this process is just starting.”
Previously, Fretilin was part of a national unity government with the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction party of independence hero Xanana Gusmao, or CNRT. In the July election, CNRT lost support and Fretilin was narrowly the largest party, but they failed to agree on a new grand coalition.
East Timor, a former colony of Portugal, was occupied by Indonesia for a quarter century and gained independence after a U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1999. Indonesia’s military responded to the independence referendum with scorched earth attacks that devastated the East Timorese half of the island of Timor.
Today, the country of 1.3 million people still faces desperate poverty. Leaders have focused on big-ticket infrastructure projects to develop the economy, funding them from a dwindling fund of former oil riches, but progress is slow.
The July vote was East Timor’s first parliamentary election without U.N. supervision since peacekeepers left in 2012.