93% of citizens believe corruption in Portugal is “common practice”

Eurobarometer findings come on day PM shrugs off latest corruption scandal 

On the day prime minister António Costa stood in the lush gardens of a Sintra palace, minimising the latest scandal involving suspicions of corruption allegedly practiced by a member of his government, a Eurobarometer Special has found that 93% of Portuguese citizens consider corruption to be “common practice” in their country.

It’s a figure 23% higher than the EU average, explains jornal economico.

In other words, almost everyone in Portugal sees corruption as endemic. 

The only countries where this perception is greater are Croatia – where 96% of citizens think corruption is embedded – and Greece where 97% fall into this category.

Now, according to Mr Costa, Portuguese people are not worried about corruption. Or perhaps put another way, they are more worried about the cost of living/ whether they can keep a roof over their heads – and this is why he chose NOT to answer questions about the 13th resignation from his executive in 15 months.

It is a position that has brought a hail of criticism – neatly side-stepped by Mr Costa leaving the country shortly afterwards.

The PM won’t be back until Wednesday evening at the earliest, and he always makes a point of saying he doesn’t talk about ‘matters domestic’ when overseas.

The problem is that this personal limitation doesn’t stop matters domestic being talked about by everyone else – and everyone today is commenting on how the government has “devalued corruption”; how it perennially talks about combatting this scourge, but never actually does anything concrete about it. ‘Announcements are made, but very little ever moves forwards’, say pundits.

Citizens may well be more concerned about their day-to-day ‘survival’ vis-a-vis the rising cost of living, scarcity of affordable housing, lack of decent education, paucity of (decent) healthcare and sloth of justice, but this does not mean they are ‘okay’ with the level of corruption in Portugal. That doesn’t mean they are complicit with their prime minister dodging questions about a new case of alleged corruption, within government.

According to Eurobarometer’s findings, “66% consider that, in the last three years, the level of corruption has increased, an increase of 15% compared to 2022, with 25% stating that they think corruption remains ‘the same’“.

As for the way citizens view political and business institutions, “the data points to a generalised distrust”, with 85% responding that they consider that “the very close relations between business and politics in Portugal lead to corruption“.

According to Transparency Portugal, 78% of respondents believe that “cases of high-level corruption are not sufficiently prosecuted in Portugal”; 84% believe that “in Portugal, favouritism and corruption harm business competition“.

It is a perception echoed by former Euro MP Ana Gomes, who said on her regular evening commentary slot on SIC television last night that António Costa’s response to questions on the latest ‘corruption scandal’ were quite simply abhorrent.

Ana Gomes admitted she doesn’t even believe the PM fully understood what he said, bearing in mind the current issue relates to ‘the ministry of defence’ “which is a sector sovereign to the State (…) when there are suspicions of corruption in this sector, this is an attack on the State of Law,” she told the news anchor – running through the recent past of ‘allegations of corruption’ within the sector of defence, almost all of them involving tens of millions of euros public money, and almost all of them brushed under various institutional carpets.

Does the prime minister think the Portuguese are idiots?” She wondered out loud. (More on this topic in our paper edition, out on Thursday).

The special Eurobarometer was drawn up on the basis of 26,404 direct face-to-face interviews in Europe, of which 1,021 were undertaken in Portugal, between April 12-30.

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