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16th Apr 2024

Portugal president asks left-wingers for EU and Nato pledge

  • Besides the Communists, Costa also needs the backing of the Left Bloc and Greens (Photo: David Baxendale)

Portugal’s political crisis entered a new phase on Monday (23 November), when president Anibal Cavaco Silva asked for guarantees from leftist parties, especially on next year’s budget, before allowing the formation of a government by Socialists.

Silva did not name the Socialist leader Antonio Costa prime minister, but asked him to start work to form a coalition.

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The conservative president wants guarantees

the leftist factions, which include the anti-euro and anti-Nato Communists, would respect Portugal’s EU and Nato commitments.

The move comes amid ongoing political uncertainty, with Portugal still without a government after inconclusive elections on 4 October.

The centre-right party of outgoing prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho won most of the votes, but failed to win an outright majority.

The president first tasked Coelho with forming a minority government. But it was toppled by leftist parties in parliament just 10 days after coming to power.

Cavaco Silva set out six areas where he wants Communist guarantees. He asked them to commit to approving the budget for next year, stick to EU budgetary rules, and respect Portugal’s commitments in Nato.

Other issues include the stability of Portugal’s financial system, trade unions, and parliamentary confidence motions.

The Communists reacted angrily, however.

“There is no reason for the president to demand conditions and guarantees ... This is a new attempt by Cavaco Silva to subvert the constitution and will have a corresponding democratic response by workers and the people,” Jeronimo Sousa, the leader of Communists, was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

Sousa said the president is “responsible for the political and institutional consequences for decisions that contribute to worsening the national situation and promoting confrontation between different sovereign organs.”

Costa, the Socialist leader, has said his agreements with the far-left are stable and that he is confident about the approval of a 2016 budget.

Portuguese media report Costa, on Monday, also sent a letter of reply to the president, but the content of the text is not known.

Analysts warn the stalemate could undermine Portugal's economic recovery after the country exited its EU bailout in 2014.

It already failed to submit a budget plan to the EU Commission on time.

Besides the Communists, Costa also needs the backing of the Left Bloc and Greens in parliament to secure a majority.

The left-wing coalition plans to roll back some of austerity measures, as well as the privatisation scheme introduced by Coelho’s government.

It wants to lift the minimum wage, end a freeze on state pensions, and remove extraordinary tax levies.

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