Finance minister’s future at issue
Considerable speculation over business dealings at the department of urbanism at Lisbon City Council during the mandate of Fernando Medina (currently Portugal’s minister of finance) have peppered the press since official searches last month – and right wing party CHEGA is watching them keenly.
Earlier this week TVI/ CNN suggested the probe by public prosecutors had reached a stage where Fernando Medina was about to be made an ‘official suspect’ (arguido) over suspicions of a corrupt scheme having been in place during his watch as Lisbon mayor.
As the media channels explained in January, “the public prosecutors office believes the objective of the scheme was to raise money through public works, with bribes to construction companies for the illicit finance of the PS through so-called slush funds”.
Fernando Medina roundly rejected all the claims, just as he has rejected the notion that he is about to be made an official suspect. But on the basis that politicians so often ‘reject’ allegations only for them to be proved later on, CHEGA is bristling for a showdown.
The party has requested the presence in parliament of Mr Medina, former Socialist mayor Joaquim Morão (already an official suspect in the probe), and former director of works and projects at Lisbon City Council Helena Bicho.
In a press conference on Tuesday, CHEGA’s president André Ventura stressed the request relates to the need for clarification over Fernando Medina’s suitability to remain in office.
On the basis that the absolute majority government suffered 12 resignations in roughly the last nine months – all of them due to various forms of unsuitability – the fall of such a powerful minister would almost certainly signal enormous (if not insurmountable) pressure for the executive which has been falling in popularity like a stone.
What is certain is that CHEGA’s request will not be granted. But the mere fact that it has been made ensures the muddied waters swirling in government continue.