The prime minister of Timor-Leste has sent a letter of resignation to the president, after the collapse of a coalition supporting him in parliament, plunging the tiny southeast Asian nation into new political uncertainty.
“I have sent a [resignation] letter to the president,” Taur Matan Ruak told reporters after meeting President Francisco Guterres, on Tuesday.
He said he was prepared to stay in office until the resignation was accepted, so as “to guarantee government activities in our country”.
Ruak had headed the Majority Alliance for Progress coalition, which included his party, Popular Liberation Party, CNRT, headed by former Timorese leader, Xanana Gusmão, and the youth party, KHUNTO.
In recent weeks the coalition was rocked by a political crisis after the governing coalition failed to pass its budget last month, despite having a majority.
In a blow to Ruak, Gusmão’s CNRT party, abstained from voting on the bill, according to Inside Story, which led Ruak to declare the end of their political alliance.
The failure to pass the budget caused significant financial problems for the country, with new programs and increases in ministerial budgets forbidden, and the government relying on monthly extensions of its 2019 budget.
The crisis developed despite attempts to stabilise the political system with fresh elections in 2018.
While Timor-Leste has remained largely peaceful since gaining independence, it has had moments of political instability and violence.
In early 2018 president Guterres dissolved parliament and called for new elections in an attempt to end hostilities brought by the 2017 result, when the winning party, Fretelin, was unable to form a coalition for majority government and opposition parties blocked legislation.
However the 2018 election campaign was still marred by tension and violence, and accusations against both Gusmão and Ruak of improper conduct.
When the coalition of Gusmão’s CNRT, Ruak’s People’s Liberation Party, and smaller independent parties won 34 of the parliament’s 65 seats, it was widely predicted Gusmao would be prime minister however Ruak was selected to lead.
Gusmão’s new alliance would be the ninth government of the country since it achieved independence in 2002.
Ruak, a former guerrilla fighter, has previously also served as Timor-Leste’s president. In 2012, he beat his rival, the current president, Francisco “Lú-Olo” Guterres and Nobel peace prize laureate José Ramos-Horta in a presidential election.