MANUEL MARIA Carrilho, Socialist (PS) candidate for Lisbon Mayor in the local authority elections on October 9, combined a robust defence of his candidature with stinging criticism of his opponents when he addressed a joint Chamber of Commerce lunch last week, reports Gabriel Hershman.
Carrilho’s address at the Sheraton Hotel followed an exchange of pleasantries earlier in the day with his main rival, Carmona Rodrigues, the independent candidate supported by the Social Democratic Party (PSD). Some commentators viewed this as an attempt to restore civility to a campaign that became markedly more acrimonious in the aftermath of a controversial debate on television channel SIC with Rodrigues. Following that programme, aired two weeks ago, Carrilho had pointedly refused to shake Rodrigues’ hand because he claimed that his opponent had slandered him.
In his address to the Chamber of Commerce, Carrilho said that his belief in the public cause had prompted his candidature. He blamed “rudderless leadership” for the capital’s decline and accused Lisbon Câmara of spending eight million euros on propaganda. “This abdication of responsibility has been inexcusable,” he said. Proclaiming himself the candidate for change, Carrilho, Culture Minister in the previous Socialist administration, disclaimed personal ambition. “When I declared my intention to stand, it was with the idea of helping Lisbon, a city that has been very badly served,” he said. “During the last four years, I have not seen Lisbon improve. Instead, there has been a progressive deterioration in terms of accommodation and traffic and many other problems remain unresolved,” he added.
Carrilho, who declared that chaos pervaded much of the city, said he wanted to convert Lisbon into a creative capital. He charged that technical expertise, without the right leadership was insufficient and that urgent action was required to reverse the city’s decline.
He also denounced the media for its “totally false” depiction of his candidature, claiming that inaccurate allegations had been made about him in the past. But he conceded that local authority elections had traditionally carried with them no tradition of great debate.
Key pledge to cut traffic congestion
One of Carrilho’s key pledges was to address the city’s traffic problems. Alluding to European No Cars Day, which fell on the same day (Thursday, September 22) as his address to the Chamber of Commerce, Carrilho said he intended to create new parking areas but also wanted to encourage people to use public transport. “The President of the Câmara has to give an example and travel by public transport,” he said. But earlier that same day, during a debate with the other candidates, it was noted that Carrilho was the only politician who travelled to and from the event by car.
He promised to cut the number of cars in Lisbon (currently 400,000) by half over the period of one four-year term, by doubling the number of bus lanes and boosting tram services.
Claiming that the city’s link with the river had been cut, Carrilho pledged to reintegrate the Tejo into the city’s top-drawer events. He said he would have preferred high profile events such as Rock in Rio to make use of the 17 kilometre riverbank – “Why not Rock on the River Tejo?” he declared rhetorically.
Among his other commitments were to revive Terreiro do Paço (Praça do Comércio), while maintaining its administrative function and to move the Museum of Contemporary Art from its present location in the Belém Cultural Centre to another site near the River Tejo.