Church centre stage in Timor Lesté election


A debate has been raging over support for the Fretilin-led government in Timor Lesté by the chairman of the Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Basilio do Nascimento.

Now, after Saturday’s election, it seems this Fretilin-led government is heading for defeat.

With more than 99 percent of votes counted in Saturday’s poll, the Alliance of Change for Progress (AMP) was leading with 49.59 percent of the total, according to the latest count by the state election administration.

The Fretilin party of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri was on 34.18 percent of votes.

Official results are not due until May 27, but a senior AMP official said it looked certain that it had won.

In a January TV interview, Alkatiri said: “I accept my position as PM not only because of Fretilin votes.

“But when I met with Bishop Nascimento who is representing the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, he himself told me to accept the position.

“That is why I assume it. The reason why? To change the status quo.”

While the bishop endorsed the comments at the time, he has since been forced to bury his support, church insiders told

Last week the government handed over the first instalment of a promised US$15 million to the Catholic Church.

The timing of the church’s agreement with the government has led to accusations it is using the church to its advantage.

Father Julio Crispin, head of the Baucau Diocese Justice Commission, said the agreement has nothing to do with the election.

He said the agreement was signed “because the council of ministers had its last sitting yesterday.”

He explained that the money was for education, social welfare and churches.

Fretilin sources said the funds, payable under an agreement with the Vatican, had been delayed for some months until it was clear they could be afforded.


News category: Asia Pacific.

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