Luís Marques Mendes
Luís Marques Mendes is one of a multitude of voices saying it is time for the PM to 'act'

Calls from all directions for dismissal of Infrastructures minister

Even PS party leader says it’s time to “freshen up” absolute majority executive

Labour Day Bank Holiday may not see any changes to the latest political meltdown that has been filling column inches, and television screens, since last week. But Tuesday should see some ‘movement’ on the widespread calls for prime minister António Costa to ‘face the music’, and at very least, ‘freshen up his executive’.

That last description came from Socialist Party president Carlos César over the weekend.

In interview with Público, he said the government has “some ministers who have not met the expectations we had” and others who “have exceeded them”.

That latter point would no doubt be debated by political opponents. Certainly Paulo João Santos, executive director of Correio da Manhã tabloid, believes “there are many ministers that should be substituted – infrastructures (João Galamba), Education (João Costa), Economy (António Costa Silva), Agriculture (Maria de Céu Antunes), Defence (Helena Carreiras), Justice (Catarina Sarmento), Habitation (Marina Gonçalves). Half the government at least”. But consensus can be found, from left to right, in the immediate need to replace Joáo Galamba.

Last night’s political commentary focused on this new urgency, while satirical show “Isto é gozar com quem trabalha” sent up the whole farce of aides ‘hiding in ministerial lavatories’, and a sacked deputy making off on a bicycle in such a way as to show that no-one could be taken in by any explanation that Mr Galamba is in control.

Galamba should never have been a minister”, says CM’s editorial director general Carlos Rodrigues today, “every day longer he remains at his post is a collective tragedy.

“The repetition of undignified episodes indicate that one of the capital errors of António Costa was lack of criteria in the selection of ministers”, he writes.

“There is the feeling that the government of the Republic has been contaminated by a small band of immature, lying, unprepared upstarts who don’t hesitate in taking Portugal to the brink of the abyss just to save their own skins (…) This government lacks respect for the Portuguese people (…) With Galamba as a minister, the dignity of the State has hit rock bottom”.

This was always the fear – but last week’s shenanigans at the Ministry of Infrastructures exceeded people’s fears to a large extent, in that Mr Galamba called in SIS, the country’s secret services, to retrieve his sacked deputy’s computer.

“If military, diplomatic, even financial secrets were at risk” this would be understandable, writes Armando Esteves-Pereira, in his column on the episode today. But the country’s secret services “cannot be use to protect and hide ministers’ mistakes. Galamba is not the Sun King who can declare “I am the State”. He has to explain which documents (on his sacked deputy’s computer) were confidential”, and not simply ‘personally incriminating’.

As Luís Marques Mendes stressed on his regular slot last night, the whole story runs like an episode from a country “of the Third world”. João Galamba has “absolutely no conditions to remain in government” – and the fact that he enlisted the help of the SIS shows abuse of power, and was illegal, in Marques Mendes’ opinion.

It is time for the prime minister to intervene instead of “permanently hiding behind ministers”, and “if António Costa doesn’t act, the president of the Republic has to intervene”, he said.

Marques Mendes said he is not talking about Marcelo dissolving parliament, more exerting influence. But plenty of other pundits have been talking about the dissolution of parliament, suggesting events have simply become too bizarre.

Adding to the sense of matters unravelling comes ‘news’ that the European Commission estimates that TAP airline – the State entity that has caused countless casualties in government – has a value of between €854 million and €1.5 billion. 

In other words, when the government does finally move on reprivatising the airline (which it suggests it will do later this year) taxpayers stand to lose €2,346 in the worst case scenario; €1,625 in the best.

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