Alberto João Jardim stands again in Madeira elections

By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

The PSD party in Madeira is once again putting forward stalwart politician Alberto João Jardim as a candidate in the regional elections on October 9.

This is despite the fact that a €1.6 billion deficit for public works programmes was never officially put down in the island’s accounts. The outspoken, often larger-than-life personality has ruled the autonomous region of Madeira for more than 30 years having won successive elections which his opponents have claimed he had rigged.

This time PSD/Madeira will once again fight the elections on a big public works spending ticket with a number of public and private projects to be opened by the island’s president that neither its taxpayers nor those on mainland Portugal can afford. So far the president has not formally presented a detailed electoral programme for the XIth Regional Government. Only the opposition PS and CDS have published outline manifestos.

Instead of publishing an official manifesto backed by the mainland PSD party, Madeira’s social democrats (PSD) are distributing a ‘people’s manifesto’ in 11 versions, targeting each district on the archipelago with a common 10-page text and a list of all the public works and projects carried out in that specific district.

In the case of the document being given out in Funchal, there are 44 pages cataloguing public and private works (namely bars, parish community centres, bank branches and busts unveiled by Jardim, together with developments that came into use before he first came to power in 1978 – these include the Hotel Park and Casino da Madeira. (1976)

The ‘manifesto’ proclaims that ‘the people will elect the government which has faced the most difficult period since democratic and political autonomy was granted to the islands in 1976.

Parties on the left and right are putting increasing pressure on the Government, the Portuguese parliament and even the President of Portugal to have Jardim removed from power in Madeira for mismanaging the island’s finances and then attempting to conceal the true nature of the debt run up.

At the same time the PS party is calling on the Portuguese President to force the PSD/CDS-PP coalition government in Lisbon and the government in Madeira to publish an austerity plan to reduce spending on the island which last year suffered one of the worst floods in its history, causing millions of euros in infrastructure damages.

In his pre-election rhetoric over the weekend, Jardim resolved to again fight for Madeira against the “robberies of the Socialist (PS) government, and defend the region’s welfare system from cuts.

While promising to cut the region’s expenses by reducing the size of its government, among other measures, Jardim denied that Madeira’s citizens would have to pay more taxes or that he would make redundant thousands of public sector workers. “I’m not going to mess around with anyone’s acquired rights” and added that he would not “sign any financial bailout agreement for the region”.