Portugal: left-wing government or fresh elections?

Crisis in president's hands after Passos gov't falls

11 November, 19:52

    Portugal President Anibal Cavaco Silva Portugal President Anibal Cavaco Silva

    (by Francesco Cerri)

    MADRID - After four years of harsh austerity measures, the future of a possible 'popular front' between Socialists and left-wing parties in Portugal is now in the hands of conservative head of state Anibal Cavaco Silva.

    On Tuesday, the combined votes of all opposition parties (Socialists, Communists, Greens, Post-Trotskyists and animal rights parties) against the center-right minority government under outgoing prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho, formed only 12 days ago, brought it down. The management of the crisis sparked by the October 4 elections, won by Passos but without the absolute majority he had enjoyed since 2011, is now back in Cavaco Silva's hands. Two months before the end of his term, the head of state must now decide - reports Publico - whether to entrust the task of forming a new government to Socialist leader Antonio Costa, in a fragile and unprecedented coalition between the PS, the Bloco de Esquerda (BE) post-Trotskyists and the PCP communists or to call fresh parliamentary elections for April or May, after the January presidential ones. He would then have to put the country in the hands of Passos until the vote, or an institutional government 'of the president'. Cavaco will be speaking in the coming days on the matter with party leaders.

    Portuguese media said on Wednesday that the fragility of the separate agreements signed by the BA (19 seats), the PCP and the Greens (17 seats, standing alongside the CDU coalition at the elections) with Costa's PS (86).

    The Socialist leader guarantees that a government under him would comply with the commitments Portugal has made with Brussels. However, the starting positions of Costa's PS, for attenuated austerity measures, of the BE under actress Catarina Martins (near Greece's Syriza) for debt renegotiations, and the Communists under Jeronimo da Sousa for an exit from the eurozone have raised concern on the markets and may influence Cavaco's choice. For Portugal, the plan for a 'popular front' government is almost a historic event, after the split between the Communists and the Socialists following the 1974 Carnation Revolution against the Salazar dictatorship. The split played a part in the pushing of the 'brain behind the revolution', Otelo de Carvaho, into jail - a man now seen as an icon of the international leftist movement.

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