Horta’s new cabinet is set to be sworn in this morning. The new cabinet is rumoured to look pretty much like the old one, with
the key addition apparently to be Alkatiri’s rival from within Fretilin,
Ambassador to the UN Jose Luis Guterres, who has been announced as the new
Foreign Minister. A number of key Alkatiri stalwarts are known to be keeping
their jobs.

Clearly some sort of
deal was struck between Fretilin, Horta and President Xanana Gusmao. Fretilin
went along with Gusmao’s insistence on Horta being Prime Minister, despite not
being a Fretilin member. By “nominating” Horta themselves, Fretilin stopped
Gusmao having to resort to more drastic unconstitutional action – not to mention
continued protests from both sides and almost certain violence.

Meanwhile, out in the streets, things are quieter.
It’s seems likely that some of the internally displaced people are leaving their
camps and going back to their homes, but it’s not obvious yet to an outsider.
Some of those who have tried to reclaim their houses have been the victims of
new stonings and threats – the message to stay out of the neighbourhood is
clear. Timorese military travelling (unarmed) through Dili have been stoned. It seems to be an almost
impossible policing job for the international forces to stop this sort of thing,
even in a quiet week.

Out in the eastern districts, people hold meetings every
day arguing about whether they should come in to hold protests, make a show of
force and reclaim their rights to live in Dili. In the meantime, in the west, one group led by
former military that split off during the violence in May is threatening bigger
demonstrations and more violence unless Gusmao dissolves Parliament.

Fretilin’s party discipline seems reasonably strong and
in general they are backing the government as Fretilin’s. But in the rank and
file there is disquiet and a strong sense that Gusmao forced Horta onto them,
despite it being the role of the Parliamentary majority to choose a Prime
Minister. For now, Horta certainly
seems to have the backing to do the job. And with the help of his
Australian-funded media adviser he certainly has the media, particularly
internationally, on side. Grumblings from within Fretilin aside, the
strongest criticisms of Horta are now coming from the loosely-aligned
anti-Alkatiri forces. These people see Horta as having sold out and joined an
extension of the Alkatiri government.

Peter Fray

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