António Costa “makes history” at 4pm today in Lisbon

António Costa, the leader of the PS Socialist party, will be making history today when his new executive is sworn in as the 21st Constitutional Government of Portugal.

Not only will Costa be the first politician in democracy to take up the role of prime minister without his party having won most of the votes in the last election, he will be the first in Portugal to appoint a black female minister (to the Justice department) and a blind female secretary of state (for the handicapped).

His choice of ministers generally has set tongues wagging in all quarters, as there is a catholic mix of ‘old friends’, ‘family ties’ and complete unknowns.

Be that as it may, this afternoon (Thursday) at 4pm, the new executive will be officially taking over.

For now, the government website (www.portugal.gov.pt) still depicts Pedro Passos Coelho and the shortest-lived executive in history.

Bizarrely, Expresso carried a story last night, claiming the site was temporarily ‘shutdown’. “Portugal has no government, at least according to its official page”, ran the headline. But this morning the outgoing PSD/CDS-PP coalition was enjoying a final few hours of fame.

The choice of 4pm to officially swear in Portugal’s historic new executive has caused “some discontent in parliament”, explain news media, as it clashes with plans for two key debates on the controversial IRS surcharge and the returning of slashed public sector salaries.

President Cavaco Silva is understood to have set the time, without reference to parliament, writes Diário de Notícias.

As new ministers are due to be briefed by those on their way out, national tabloid Correio da Manhã adds that this latest government is also one of Portugal’s ‘largest’ since 1976. It has 17 ministers and no less than 41 secretaries of state.

Another remarkable feature of today’s changeover in Lisbon’s Assembly of the Republic is that the Left Bloc (BE) and PCP (communist party) will be present at the ceremony, even though neither party is represented within the government.

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Photo: LUSA