Cavaco in hot seat as Portugal’s political leaders “offer very little”

President of the Republic Cavaco Silva embarks on two days of talks with Portugal’s political parties today, knowing that by Thursday he has to make the unenviable decision over who should lead the country’s next government. The nation’s papers this morning explain the conundrum. There is “very little” offered by anyone.

The PSD/CDS-PP coalition can only offer what it has: a minority. The PS Socialists are still locked in negotiations with other left-wing parties, so leader António Costa – however much he talks – cannot offer Cavaco a solid agreement between a parliamentary majority.

Thus two days before Cavaco has declared he will make his decision, the field is still wide open.

Caretaker PM Pedro Passos Coelho has done his bit to court the Socialists, but they do not appear to be biting. In reply to his latest written invitation to Costa to take part in a future executive, Costa has replied that what separates the parties – and effectively makes a deal impossible – is the “sovereign will of the Portuguese people for a reorientation of the political system”.

The PS is “seeking to assure the best conditions that can guarantee this reorientation”, Costa added.

Meantime, deputy PM Paulo Portas – the normally sabre-rattling CDS leader dubbed the Teflon politician by international observers – has revealed he is prepared to cede his position as Number Two in government in the event of a deal with the PS.

Talking on TVI last night, he said if the PS came on board for a central bloc coalition, “certainly, I would not be the number two”.

But as the “witching hour” approaches – with the three main parties due to see Cavaco in Belém today, followed by smaller parties tomorrow – pundits are hedging their bets, saying Cavaco basically has a “hot potato” on his hands, with nothing more effective to deal with it than a wand bereft of magic powers.

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