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Cablegate: East Timor: Xanana Gusmao -- Finally -- Declares

P 271034Z FEB 02
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6106
INFO ASEAN COLLECTIVE
UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY CANBERRA
AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
AMEMBASSY LISBON
USMISSION GENEVA
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
SECDEF WASHDC//USDP/ISA/AP//
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI//FPA//
CG III MEF
NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 000685

2002 DILI REPORT 8

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV UN
SUBJECT: EAST TIMOR: XANANA GUSMAO -- FINALLY -- DECLARES
CANDIDACY FOR PRESIDENT

1. SUMMARY. NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE HERO XANANA GUSMAO DECLARED
HIS INTENT TO BECOME THE FIRST-EVER ELECTED PRESIDENT OF
EAST TIMOR. WITH LESS THAN 90 MINUTES TO GO BEFORE THE
FILING DEADLINE EXPIRED, GUSMAO ACCEPTED THE NOMINATION OF
MINOR OPPOSITION PARTIES TO THE CHAGRIN OF THE MAJORITY
PARTY FRETILIN. FRETILIN WANTED GUSMAO TO RUN AS AN
CANDIDATE INDEPENDENTLY NOMINATED BY 5,000 CITIZENS.
XANANA NOW PITS HIS POPULARITY AGAINST THE FRETILIN'S
INSTITUTIONAL STRENGTH AND DEEPENS THE PERSONAL WITH
FRETILIN. HOWEVER, HE DID OFFER AN OLIVE BRANCH OF SORTS
BY UNDERLINING THAT HE WOULD CONTINUE HIS STATUS
INDEPENDENT OF PARTY AFFILIATION AND NOT CAMPAIGN OR
ENDORSE POLITICIANS FROM AMONG THE PARTIES WHO NOMINATED
HIM. XANANA SHOULD CRUISE TO EASY VICTORY AGAINST THE ONLY
OTHER CANDIDATE IN THE RACE -- THE VENERABLE XAVIER DO
AMARAL, CURRENTLY THE DEPUTY OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND
FORMERLY THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF EAST TIMOR IN 1975. END
SUMMARY.

XANANA OFFICIALLY ENTERS RACE
-----------------------------

2. NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE HERO "XANANA" GUSMAO OFFICIALLY
DECLARED HIMSELF A CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT ON FEBRUARY 23.
ONLY MINUTES BEFORE THE FILING DEADLINE WAS TO EXPIRE,
XANANA LET TEN MINORITY POLITICAL PARTIES FORMALLY REGISTER
HIS CANDIDACY. THESE PARTIES INCLUDE THE PSD AND PD, THE
MOST PROMINENT OPPOSITION. THE TEN SUPPORTING PARTIES SPAN
THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM FROM THE CONSERVATIVE UDT THROUGH
THE SOCIALIST PARTY.

3. NOTABLY ABSENT WAS FRETILIN, THE MAJORITY PARTY.
FRETILIN HAD WANTED GUSMAO TO ESCHEW ALL PARTY NOMINATIONS
AND RUN BY ACCEPTING A NON-PARTISAN PETITION OF 5,000
CITIZEN SIGNATURES. XANANA'S SUPPORTERS HAD ACTUALLY
COMPLETED SUCH A PETITION IN TIME FOR GUSMAO'S USE, BUT HE
OPTED DIFFERENTLY. (ONLY ONE OTHER CANDIDATE IS
REGISTERED, THE ASDT PARTY'S XAVIER DO AMARAL, THE DEPUTY
SPEAKER OF THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY -- AND NO THREAT TO
GUSMAO'S CHANCES.)

4. GUSMAO HAS STEADFASTLY REFUSED THE INDIVIDUAL PETITION
ROUTE BECAUSE, HE ASSERTS, THAT WOULD MEAN HE WAS HARBORING
A PERSONAL ASPIRATION TO BE PRESIDENT. ALL ALONG, HE HAS
CLAIMED NO PERSONAL AMBITION. THUS HE WOULD ONLY ACCEPT
THE IMPORTUNING OF OTHERS TO FILL THE OFFICE OF CHIEF
EXECUTIVE. AT A MORE STRATEGIC LEVEL, XANANA WANTS TO RUN
AND WIN WITHOUT FRETILIN'S SUPPORT TO DEMONSTRATE HE IS THE
ONE WHO ENJOYS THE PEOPLE'S MANDATE. WITH SUCH A MANDATE,
GUSMAO WOULD INCREASE HIS LEVERAGE IN THE POLICY MAKING
PROCESS, EVEN THOUGH THE PRESIDENT WILL HAVE FEW ENUMERATED
POWERS UNDER THE NEW CONSTITUTION.

XANANA: "NOT AN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE"
--------------------------------------

5. XANANA DID EXTEND AN OLIVE BRANCH, OF SORTS, TO
FRETILIN. HE SAID THAT, IN SPITE OF THE MINOR PARTY
NOMINATIONS, HE WOULD MAINTAIN A TOTALLY "INDEPENDENT"
POLITICAL POSTURE. HE WOULD NOT BECOME THE "OPPOSITION'S
PRESIDENT", NOR JOIN THOSE PARTIES. XANANA HAS CREATED AN
UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION TO RAISE FUNDS AND MANAGE HIS
CAMPAIGN. SUPPORTERS WILL HAVE TO FORSWEAR FORMAL
POLITICAL AFFILIATION -- AT LEAST TEMPORARILY -- WHILE
WORKING FOR HIM.

6. FRETILIN DOES NOT WANT TO ACTIVELY COUNTER XANANA. THEY
WANTED TO ENDORSE HIM UNDER THE PETITION SCHEME. FRETILIN
IS NOT MONOLITHIC. THERE IS A LARGE PRO-XANANA FACTION
WITHIN THE PARTY WHO LIKE HIM AND BELIEVE HE IS THE RIGHT
CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT. ACCORDING TO A MID-LEVEL
FRETILIN OFFICIAL, FRETILIN WILL SOLVE ITS DILEMMA BY NOT
OPPOSING XANANA AND OFFICIALLY REMAINING "NEUTRAL." THIS
WOULD FREE PARTY MEMBERS TO GO OUT AND "VOTE THEIR
CONSCIENCE."

RAMOS HORTA CANNOT BROKER DEAL
------------------------------

7. FOREIGN MINISTER JOSE RAMOS HORTA, THE NOBEL PEACE
PRIZE WINNER, HAD BEEN WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES TO RESOLVE
MONTHS OF XANANA'S INDECISION. RAMOS HORTA HAD WORKED TO
ARRANGE THE 5,000 SIGNATURES TO DENY XANANA THE EXCUSE THAT
TIME HAD RUN OUT FOR THAT CANDIDATE OPTION.

8. FORTY-EIGHT HOURS BEFORE THE REGISTRATION EXPIRY, RAMOS
HORTA ADVISED SENIOR UNTAET (UNITED NATIONS TRANSITIONAL
ADMINISTRATION FOR EAST TIMOR) OFFICIALS THAT XANANA HAD
FINALLY AGREED TO GO THE PETITION ROUTE, ONLY HOURS AFTER
XANANA HAD INFORMED THE U.S. AMBASSADOR HE WAS LEANING
TOWARD ACCEPTING THE MINOR PARTY NOMINATIONS -- IF HE
DECIDED TO RUN.

9. RAMOS HORTA HAD EVEN WORKED OUT A PLAN IF XANANA DID
THE UNTHINKABLE AND DECIDED NOT TO RUN. RAMOS HORTA,
HIGHLY RESPECTED DOMESTICALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY, WOULD
HAVE ACCEPTED A FRETILIN NOMINATION AND RUN AS NATIONAL
UNITY CANDIDATE. ALTHOUGH HE WAS HAPPY ABOUT XANANA'S
FINAL DECISION TO STAND AS A CANDIDATE, XANANA'S LATE
REVERSAL CONFOUNDED EVEN HORTA.

XANANA AND FRETILIN: A WIDENING GULF?
-------------------------------------

10. XANANA GUSMAO'S REFUSAL TO GO THE PETITION ROUTE WILL
INCREASE FRICTION BETWEEN HIM AND THE FRETILIN PARTY.
THERE IS A CURRENTLY A SHARP PERSONAL RIFT BETWEEN GUSMAO
AND FRETILIN'S MOST DOMINANT FIGURE, MARI ALKATIRI, WHO IS
CHIEF MINISTER OF EAST TIMOR'S SECOND TRANSITIONAL
GOVERNMENT AND WILL ASCEND TO THE POWERFUL OFFICE OF PRIME
MINISTER AFTER INDEPENDENCE.

11. SENIOR OFFICIALS WITHIN UNTAET, WHICH GOVERNS EAST
TIMOR UNTIL MAY 20, WOULD HAVE PREFERRED XANANA'S
ACCEPTANCE OF THE PETITION ROUTE TO AVOID A WIDENING OF THE
XANANA/FRETILIN BREACH. FRETILIN WILL DOMINATE THE NEW
PARLIAMENT AND CABINET. THE PRESIDENT WILL HAVE FEW
ENUMERATED POWERS AND WILL HAVE TO WORK CLOSELY WITH
FRETILIN FOR GOVERNMENT TO OPERATE HARMONIOUSLY.
OFFICIALS WITHIN GOVERNMENT AND FRETILIN REPORT THAT
ALKATIRI HAS SOUGHT TO MEET WITH GUSMAO IN RECENT WEEKS
ONLY TO BE REBUFFED.

12. COMMENT: GUSMAO KNOWS HE IS MORE POPULAR THAN
FRETILIN OR ALKATIRI PERSONALLY. THIS MAY HAVE LED HIM TO
IGNORE FRETILIN -- RATHER THAN NEGOTIATE WITH THEM -- ABOUT
THE TERMS OF HIS CANDIDACY. ALTHOUGH THIS WILL WORK FOR
HIM DURING THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, IT IS THE WRONG
PRESCRIPTION FOR ENACTING LEGISLATION OR IMPLEMENTING
NATIONAL POLICIES POST-MAY 20. XANANA'S WAVERING ABOUT HIS
CANDIDACY HAS BEEN WORTHY OF A PERFORMANCE OF SHAKESPEARE'S
"HAMLET," BUT THE UNCERTAINTY INVITES QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS
ROLE AS A DECISIVE OFFICE-HOLDER AFTER AN ELECTION HE IS
SURE TO WIN.


BOYCE

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