Cavaco navigates political icebergs in New Year speech

Cavaco navigates political icebergs in New Year speech

As Portugal enters a key election year, the party-political posturing has begun – with President Cavaco Silva using his New Year speech to warn against it.

But as commentators pointed out, seen from another angle the speech simply echoed messages put out by the government, particularly when it came to Portugal’s improved economic performance.

Nonetheless, the head of state sent out a message to all parties to be “careful with their electoral promises” and avoid “demagogy”.

Portugal must not be allowed to “return to a situation similar to that which came at the beginning of 2011”, he said, referring to the moment the Socialist government under José Sócrates was forced to seek a €79 billion bailout.

It was a phrase reminiscent of the one used by PSD prime minister Passos Coelho a week before, when he urged the nation to “protect what we have achieved together” and “not let everything go to waste”.

As opposition parties digested Cavaco’s various messages, the vice-president of the coalition’s CDS party Nuno Melo stepped into the arena suggesting that what the President was really saying was that Portugal had to choose between those who “freed it from the troika” and those who led it to bankruptcy in the first place.

Socialist party heavyweight Ferro Rodrigues chose his words carefully when he commented that Cavaco’s speech showed “a deficit of impartiality” in an election year.

Meantime, further political lunacy was in the paper’s this morning, with national tabloid Correio da Manhã carrying an exclusive on the (thwarted) plan of José Sócrates to substitute Cavaco Silva and become Portugal’s next President.

The “strategy” had been “finely detailed”, writes CM, and is apparently backed-up by phone conversations caught by police ‘taps’ that led to Operation Marquês – the investigation that has led to Sócrates’ incarceration at Évora jail.

As 2014 shuffled off the scene, PS leader António Costa finally joined Sócrates’ illustrious stream of political visitors, also choosing his words carefully when he emerged to the posse of reporters waiting outside the prison gates.

Sócrates was a fighter, he told them, and he was continuing to “fight for what he believed was his truth”.

Costa had left his appearance at Évora to almost the 11th hour – the morning before New Year’s Eve – and stressed as he took his leave that “we must let justice function in all its values”.

Sócrates’ appeal – demanding immediate release from preventive custody – is now unlikely to be heard before the middle of January.