Bid to ‘outlaw’ Portugal’s borough lockdown thrown out by Supreme Administrative Tribunal

News came through this afternoon that the Supreme Administrative Tribunal has rejected the bid by right-wing party Chega to outlaw this long weekend’s borough ‘lockdowns’ in Portugal.

The court had given the government 24-hours to respond to Chega’s contention that the restrictions could only be legally-imposed in a State of Emergency (which still hasn’t been declared).

The government duly ‘made its case’ saying as far as it was concerned “there is legal basis to restrict freedom to circulate” – citing both the laws surrounding Civil Protection and the Public Health System of Vigilance.

The response also included the government’s consideration that “a political party does not have the right to act juridically in the defence of citizens”.

Meantime, police have been out in force throughout the country ensuring that people do indeed remain within their boroughs of residence unless they have permissible reasons to travel further afield (click here).

What jars in this story is the fact that on Friday morning President Marcelo admitted the restrictions were not legally-binding (click here).

His admission, cited by Expresso, followed criticism by presidential candidate Tiago Mayan Gonçalves (for Iniciativa Liberal) – a lawyer by profession – who said the government’s impositions were “patently unconstitutional”.

Mr Gonçalves went so far as to pledge to help any citizen who falls foul of the restrictions (click here)

Yet the Supreme Administrative Tribunal has upheld them, stressing it cannot see “any violation of liberties and guarantees to citizens”.

It is unlikely that this issue will stop here. The weekend will continue as confined as it is until 6am on November 3. But the jungle drums of discontent are picking up their pace.

Correio da Manhã (perhaps the country’s most widely-read tabloid, usually present in every café and bar) carried a column by news editor Miguel Alexandre Ganhão today, where he said: “It’s worth stopping to think for a moment about the obligation (this weekend) to have authorisation to go to work… I repeat, the requirement for every citizen to be authorised to leave his/ her home and go to work to make the money needed to feed the family! 

“What is the difference between this form of restriction and that which exists in the China of Xi Jinping, where moving from provinces has to be authorised by the government? If we answer the question honestly there is no difference.

“When one starts to sacrifice liberty in the name of a greater good, we are going down a dangerous road”, he continues.

“We have already been made to wear masks. Now we have to have authorisation to work. They want to make us download an application (click here). Freedom is connected to a ventilator, and it cannot wait for a vaccine”.

Elsewhere in the same paper, former minister of internal administration Rui Pereira – also a lawyer and these days a regular television commentator – writes that in his opinion “we cannot tear up the Constitution. Without a State of Emergency, the suspension of the freedom to circulate, or an eventual nighttime curfew, reek of unconstitutionality… Only a declaration of State of Emergency (by the President, authorised by parliament and after hearing the government) respects fundamental rights”.

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Image: André Ventura of right-wing political party Chega