Portugal: Despite Presidential Manoeuvres, Socialists says it’s “Inevitable” the Left will Govern.
Portuguese Socialists Vow to “Topple” Centre-right Minority Government.
Despite Europhobic headlines in the anglophone media (Eurozone crosses Rubicon as Portugal’s anti-euro Left banned from power Daily Telegraph) for the Portuguese Socialist Party it remains “inevitable” that their leader, Costa, will become Prime Minister supported by the agreement by left parties, PCP (Portuguese Communist Party), PEV (Green Party) and BE (left Bloc). (Socialistas consideram “inevitável” que Costa venha a ser primeiro-ministro: Publico).
The Portuguese Communist Party agrees, stating, “There is a real possibility of a government with the PS with the PCP”, “Existe a possibilidade real de o PS formar Governo e o PCP” said Jerónimo de Sousa (25th October Expresso). This comes despite their firm criticism of the decision by President Cavaco Silva to exclude this possibility (1).
Silva only has three months of office as President left before new elections (January 2016).
He is not standing (having served two consecutive terms he is not eligible for this contest).
Those credulous enough (or willing enough) to follow the Daily Telegraph’s view that the attempt to exclude the Portuguese left from power is the fault of ‘Europe’ will no doubt follow the following news with interest.
Portugal’s opposition Socialists pledged to topple the centre-right minority government with a no-confidence motion, saying the president had created “an unnecessary political crisis” by nominating Pedro Passos Coelho as prime minister.
RTE News. 24th October.
The move could wreck Mr Passos Coelho’s efforts to get his centre-right government’s programme passed in parliament in ten days’ time, extending the political uncertainty hanging over the country since an inconclusive 4 October election.
Mr Coelho was named prime minister on Thursday after his coalition won the most votes in the national election but lost its majority in parliament, which swung to leftist parties.
This set up a confrontation with the main opposition Socialists, who have been trying to form their own coalition government with the hard left Communists and Left Bloc, who all want to end the centre-right’s austerity policies.
“The president has created an unnecessary political crisis by naming Passos Coelho as prime minister,” Socialist leader Antonio Costa said.
The Socialists and two leftist parties quickly showed that they control the most votes when parliament reopened yesterday, electing a Socialist speaker of the house and rejecting the centre-right candidate.
“This is the first institutional expression of the election results,” Costa said. “In this election of speaker, parliament showed unequivocally the majority will of the Portuguese for a change in our democracy.”
Early yesterday, Mr Costa’s party gave its lawmakers a mandate to “present a motion rejecting any government programme” that includes similar policies to the last government.
After the national election, Mr Passos Coelho tried to gain support from the Socialists, who instead started negotiating with the Communists and Left Bloc.
Antonio Barroso, senior vice president of the Teneo Intelligence consultancy in London, said Costa was likely to threaten any Socialist lawmaker with expulsion if they vote for the centre-right government’s programme.
“Therefore, the government is likely to fall, which will put the ball back on the president’s court,” Mr Barroso said in a note.
The political stand-off has prompted concerns that the economy’s recovery after a bailout could stumble.
But, so far, bond market investors have focussed instead on the likelihood of more quantitative easing from the European Central Bank. Benchmark 10-year bond yields were slightly higher at 2.38 percent on Friday.
Portugal’s PSI20 stock index was up 1%.
Passos Coelho’s government pursued austerity measures and tax hikes during the past four years under a bailout which plunged Portugal into a three-year recession. The economy returned to growth last year and accelerated this year.
Portugal News on-Line reports:
In the wake of the elections, signs were that Cavaco Silva was set to follow tradition and nominate the party with the highest number of MPs to form a government, in this case, the centre-right PSD-CDS coalition.
But in the weeks which have followed since the split ballot, the Socialists and the coalition have failed to agree on much, as had been openly hoped for by the President. This has now resulted in the Socialists negotiating an unprecedented alliance with the Left Bloc and the Communist Party.
These three parties together have 123 seats in Parliament, 16 more than the coalition, and would be able to pass legislation without any opposition.
The Left Bloc leader Catarina Martins told Antenna 1 radio on Thursday that the party decided to join forces with the Socialists in order to stop them from forming an alliance with the PSD-CDS, which would have allowed Pedro Passos Coelho to add to his four years in charge as the country’s prime minister.
While the president has favoured a minority government, he will be fully aware that the leftist majority will bring down the coalition at the first opportunity.
Such an occasion will be presented to the opposition by no later than 4 November, the date on which the coalition will have to present their programme for the next four years of government, should they form a government.
Rejection of the government’s programme will see the ball tossed back in the court of the president.
He is currently fewer than three months away from completing the maximum two terms in office, meaning President Cavaco Silva will constitutionally be impeded to call early elections, as has happened in the past when a government has failed to enjoy the support of the majority of MPs.
With the fall of a hypothetical centre-right government, he will instead then be faced with the choice of either calling on Socialist leader António Costa to form a government, or hand the political hot potato to his successor, who will be elected in January.
The next president will however have little choice, but to call early elections. Once again, the constitution, in a bid to avoid a succession of elections, requires that a minimum of six months elapses between the start of a new parliamentary session and elections being called.
This will mean that the next President will only be able to announce a date for elections at the end of next April, with the earliest opening at his or her disposal being in June.
In the meantime, a minority cabinet will be reduced to performing ceremonial duties, and operate as a transitional government with very limited decision-making powers.
In the event of Passos Coelho’s cabinet being brought down and the president opts to hand over the country’s reigns to the leftists alliance, there will be some major policy shifts.
Agreement, appears to have been reached in three major areas.
The freezing of pensions will be lifted at a cost of one billion euros over the coming four years, civil servants will see their salary cuts revoked at a rate of 25 percent a quarter at a cost of 600 million euros, while also cancelling proposed cuts in the social security contributions and company tax rates, which in turn will pay for the increased expenditure on pensions and wages.
The Left Bloc and Communists have also called for stricter rules on sacking workers and are proposing the minimum wage be increased to 600 euros during the course of the current legislature, demands which the Socialists have shown an inclination towards accepting.
Less certainty surrounds how the generally moderate Socialists will deal with euro-scepticism of the far left, with both parties proposing a return to the escudo.
Despite assurances from the Socialists in recent days as to the continuation of the country in the euro, Portuguese Communist MEPs have this week been lobbying in Brussels for the EU to create a mechanism that will allow member states to obtain financing in order to facilitate their exit from the Union.
Given this stance and having defended the need for sacrifice since the Troika entered Portugal four years ago for the sake of stability on a European level, Cavaco Silva would not have raised too many eyebrows by nominating a minority government, even if he does so with the certainty it will not see out a full term in office.
On the decision and announcement by the President of the Republic regarding the nomination of the Prime Minister
23 October 2015
The announcement by Cavaco Silva to the country on the nomination of Passos Coelho to form government, being yet another episode of an assumed confrontation with the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic that has governed the mandates of the President of the Republic and his course, deserves the strongest condemnation.
Cavaco Silva did not just behave as a mentor of the PSD/CDS coalition, and used the office he has been vested, to try to redeem these parties from the significant defeat they were inflicted by the Portuguese people.
Cavaco Silva overstepped his functions, abused the prerogatives that are constitutionally assigned to him, subverted the foundations of the democratic regime, assumed himself not as President of the Republic but as a representative of the PSD and CDS in Belém [Palace] and placed the country into a position of humiliating foreign subservience .
It is demanded from Cavaco Silva, while President of the Republic, respect for the Constitution, impartiality and statesmanship, not being admissible from him appreciations about the legitimacy of the parties and their political action, let alone giving voice to anti-democratic conceptions and making judgments on the intents of others.
It is intolerable that Cavaco Silva dare limit, using the functions entrusted to him, about who may or may not exercise governing functions or responsibilities.
It is intolerable that Cavaco Silva intends to impose political options and government solutions subject to the interests at whose service he places himself and in confrontation with the constitutional framework that he is bound to obey.
It is intolerable that Cavaco Silva assumes himself, not as the guarantor of national sovereignty and independence, but rather as a defender of the financial markets, the speculators, the interests of transnational capital.
It is intolerable that Cavaco Silva imply, as he strongly hinted, an attitude of pressure and blackmail on the MPs and the choices they should make.
In this context and given the now announced decision, the President of the Republic becomes responsible for the position of confrontation with the Constitution, for the instability it creates and the political and institutional consequences therein resulting.
On the part of the PCP, Cavaco Silva’s decision to nominate Passos Coelho to form government will founder in the Assembly of the Republic with the approval of a motion to reject the government programme that may be presented by PSD and CDS.
Thus lies open the possibility of giving expression to the will expressed by the Portuguese people in the October 4 elections, putting an end to policies of destruction, impoverishment and national decline.
As we have stated, PSD and CDS have no conditions to govern, there being a majority of MPs in the Assembly which is enough condition for the formation of a government of the PS initiative, which enables the presentation of the Programme, its taking office and the adoption of a policy to ensure a lasting solution.
The PCP reaffirms its commitment to fight for a policy that responds to the rights of the workers and the people, the rise of their living conditions, the fight against social injustice and inequalities, the necessary economic growth and an effective employment policy .