Budget voting day looms as government ‘scrambles’ to find ‘allies’

The ‘global vote’ on the PS government’s ‘hotly contested’ spending plans for 2021 is fast approaching, with support for approval by no means assured.

As the country as a whole focuses on Covid-19 and all the associated agony, decision day (November 26) for OE2021 (Orçamento do Estado 2021) is now only two weeks away.

Time to lodge proposals for changes runs out tomorrow (Friday). It appears the ‘rupture’ with former left-wing ally Bloco de Esquerda is beyond repair.

Say reports today, the green-light is increasingly in the hands of PCP communists, PEV (Greens) and PAN (People Animals Nature).

Yesterday (Wednesday), the PCP presented another 34 measures the party wants to see included if they are to give the document their approval.

As far as PEV and PAN go, further negotiations are scheduled. But the scenario hasn’t been helped by António Saraiva, president of CIP – the confederation of Portuguese industries – saying that in his opinion the support destined for businesses in the budget is “very little”.

He had hoped for more, Saraiva has told the special committee on economic and social policies.

In other words, there promises to be a lot of political bargaining in the next 14 days, and even then it’s unclear whether the government will get the approval of minority parties, or simply their agreement to abstain – which will see the OE2021 ‘approved’, but in the least edifying way.

For a reminder of what the budget offered (before any concessions were agreed) click here.

Finally, economy minister Pedro Siza Vieira has attempted to show former left wing ‘allies’ what could happen if they don’t help the PS with OE2021.

A ‘failure’ on November 26 will open the way to the political crisis the government and president have been trying to avoid for months now – “and the alternative is to bring a party into the arc of governance that relies on exacerbating divisions on Portuguese society”.

Mr Siza Vieira was referring to right-wing party Chega, which has helped ‘tipped the balance’ from PS to centre right in the Azores (despite the latter actually winning at the polls).

If Chega pulls off nationally what it has managed regionally, Mr Siza Vieira fears this would constitute “a great threat to democracy”.

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