If he was hoping for some respite in the campaign calling for his resignation, Portugal’s prime minister Passos Coelho woke up to even worse news today (Sunday).
Not only had thousands marched (yet again) against austerity in several towns and cities, national paper Expresso – known for its Sunday Times’ attitude to reporting – revealed that Passos Coelho’s tax debts could, in fact, be a great deal higher than he is letting on.
All week, opposition politicians have been demanding answers over the €3900 in back tax that the PM says he paid last month and thus has put in order.
His changing excuses – first he had “forgotten” the debts, and then that he had decided to delay their payment “due not having the money to pay them” – have simply inflamed the controversy even further.
Today, Expresso claims it is in possession of a document from Social Security that sets Passos Coelho’s debts at €7,500 – almost twice the amount he is being harangued over.
Expresso claims the coalition leader “benefitted from a ‘blackout’ of Social Security registations” and that he paid the €3900 to “paste over the fact that he had not made discounts to Social Security while he was working independently. But this value is not enough to settle the 58 months that he worked without making discounts”, the paper stresses – saying the real figure should add another €5,016, with interest on top.
ISS, the Social Security institute has refuted Expresso’s claims, suggesting the document in the paper’s possession “could have been falsified”.
But the damage has already been done.
As AFP reported yesterday, the whole furore of these past few days has come “as a gift to the opposition Socialists in an election year, with the latest opinion polls showing them edging ahead of the ruling coalition”.
AFP’s coverage too of yesterday’s thousands taking to the streets against the coalition’s determination for austerity quoted trades union leaders’ assertions that “the country is in worse shape than before the international (troika) loan deal”.