Claims that the government is spying on the president

The relationship between the offices of the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister hit rock bottom this week after it was alleged that the government was spying on Cavaco Silva and his staff.

As the General Election approaches, the gulf between Socialist Prime Minister José Sócrates and Centre-Right PSD President Ánibal Cavaco Silva is wider than ever on a wide range of policy issues, from the President’s opposition to large-scale public works projects such as the TGV high-speed rail link to fears that the Portuguese government is trying to control the press.

Presidential aides, speaking off the record, allude to a “climate of psychological fear” at the President’s official residence at Belém, with claims that telephones and rooms are being bugged and conversations, messages and mail intercepted.

The allegations, which are being officially denied, also centre round claims that presidential aides have been secretly infiltrating and shaping the opposition PSD party election programme.

According to the Portuguese Constitution, the President of the Republic must remain above party politics, independent of his own personal party political affiliations.

The latter allegation was hotly contested by the Office of the President with a top aide saying on Monday: “How on earth can PS party leaders possibly know what presidential aides are up to?”

Both the daily newspaper Público and weekend newspaper Sol published articles over the weekend alleging that both the President of the Republic and his staff were deliberately “interfering in the election campaign”.

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