02/25/2020, 00.00
EAST TIMOR
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Dili, Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak resigns; the ruling coalition collapses

The support of the independence hero Xanana Gusmao has waned. Ruak is ready to remain in office until the resignation is accepted, in order to "guarantee government activities". Gusmao has a new six-party coalition ready to control 34 out of 65 seats in parliament.

Dili (AsiaNews / Agencies) - East Timorese Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak (photo) handed in his resignation as  government leader to President Francisco Guterres this morning as the coalition that supported him in parliament has ceased.

The tiny Asian nation with the highest percentage of Catholics (97% of the population) is now facing a new season of political instability, which began with the Prime Minister's repeated and unsuccessful attempts to approve the spending plan for 2020. The decisive factor was the withdrawal of the majority party - the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (Cnrt) of the independence hero Xanana Gusmao - from the government alliance.

"I sent a letter (of resignation) to the president," Taur Matan Ruak (aka Jose Maria de Vasconcelos) told reporters after meeting President Francisco Guterres. Ruak explained that he was ready to remain in office until the resignation was accepted, in order to "guarantee government activities in our country".

The premier was supported by a three-party coalition, the Alliance of Change for Progress (Amp). This won 34 of the 65 seats at stake in the parliamentary elections in May 2018, the fifth vote since independence from Indonesia in 2002.

But since then there have been occasional political stalls and growing tensions after the president, who belongs to the party d Fretilin opposition rejected some ministers proposed by Gusmao on allegations of corruption. Three days ago Gusmao announced a new six-party coalition that controls 34 seats without Ruak's party. The first president of East Timor and former prime minister said he is preparing to form a new government.

In recent years, Asia's youngest democracy has suffered from political instability that has hampered efforts to reduce poverty, eliminate corruption and develop its rich oil and gas resources. The energy sector represented around 60% of the gross domestic product in 2014 and over 90% of public revenue.

Over the past 10 years, government policies have focused mainly on infrastructure projects and a declining oil fund to revive the economy. However, the nation has made little progress in rural areas, where nearly 70% of the approximately 1.3 million East Timorese live. A recent survey conducted by the United Nations revealed that about half of citizens live below the extreme poverty line, set at US $ 1.90 per day, and 50% of children under five suffer from physical growth complications and mental due to malnutrition.

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