PM’s new ‘right hand’ is brother of minister for parliamentary affairs…
The recent rather desultory government re-shuffle (prompted by one outgoing Secretary of State who turned out to be an official suspect in two ongoing investigations, and two who contradicted their minister, in support of the government position) has thrown up another unusual situation: the new ‘right hand’ of prime minister António Costa (replacing the former mayor of Caminha) is none other than the brother of the current minister for parliamentary affairs.
This latest appointment – albeit of a politician already well in place (António Mendonça Mendes simply moves from the Treasury to São Bento) – has barely been remarked on in the popular press. But still… it gives that feeling that things are getting just a little too chummy.
President Marcelo has sought to ‘devalue the family connection’ between minister Ana Catarina Mendes and her younger brother António, say reports.
“It’s not exactly a generalised thing”, he told journalists on the sidelines of a visit to Leixões cruise ship terminal (Matosinhos). “Not being and understanding that everyone has their own merit, and me having been part of a right-wing government where this has already happened… I don’t see a specific objection that raises an opposition from the President of the Republic”, he ventured. But “as a generalised practice, in principle, everyone has the idea that it is not ideal”.
He who makes the changes (in this case the prime minister, currently laid low by flu, we are told, and thus unable to go to Qatar to support the national team in its game against South Korea tomorrow) does so “in the hope of finding better solutions”, said Marcelo, adding that it is the people who vote… “as we will have many votes in the European elections in 2024, in the municipal elections in 2025 and in the general elections in 2026, in the end, (the people) make the sum, not only of what has changed, but of the results of that change and give the classification”.
Marcelo considered that the changes in the Government are “a choice” of the Prime Minister and the President is only responsible for assessing whether the proposed names raise any problems.
“The President of the Republic only intervenes in this matter to evaluate if the names that are proposed raise any constitutional, legal or ethical question that raises an objection. If this is not the case, it is the Prime Minister’s choice,” he reiterated.
Not quite as ambivalent is Luís Montenegro, leader of PSD social democrats whose ‘ranking’ as a party in terms of voter intentions is making inroads on PS Socialists’ absolute majority.
For some time now, polls have shown the country is not so convinced of its leaders’ merits.
Talking last night, Mr Montenegro highlighted the iniquities behind the latest reshuffle: the two secretaries of State ‘shown the door’ (Rita Marques and José Neves) had criticised a minister. “The prime minister said the opposite of what the minister said, the government decided exactly what the secretaries of state said and, after all, it is the secretaries of state who leave and the minister remains? This is a confusion that nobody understands”, he said. The government “is not inspiring confidence“.