PSD leader Luís Montenegro has called for 'credibility' in the country's election campaign. Image: Manuel de Almeida/ Lusa
PSD leader Luís Montenegro has called for 'credibility' in the country's election campaign. Image: Manuel de Almeida/ Lusa

Election promises by Portugal’s warring parties “have turned into bidding war of who gives most…”

Analysts discuss “strangest election campaign in country’s history”

With no media source yet outlining exactly what each party is promising, Portugal’s election campaign has morphed into a series of excerpts on increasingly ambitious pledges.

The cherry on the cake at the weekend was the assertion by PS secretary general Pedro Nuno Santos that illegal tolls (charged for the last 12 years) would come to an end

The pledge came less than three months since the country’s minister of territorial cohesion said the chances of tolls being abolished was getting ‘increasingly further from being a possibility” – and it saw PSD leader Luís Montenegro (try at least, to) draw a line in the sand over the gathering trend to rake in votes every possible way.

Pedro Nuno Santos’ pledge, he stressed, “has no credibility” – unless PS Socialists have suddenly struck oil in Largo do Rato (the seat of parliament).

What the Socialists do, said Montenegro, “is always present the same measures to the point of exaggeration”. 

It was not that long ago, he reminded, that the PS had had the ‘audacity’ to reject a PSD proposal to reduce tolls…

The PSD leader appealed to all those involved in the ‘AD’ election campaign (the Democratic Alliance bringing together independents, and two parties that currently have no national MPs, CDS-PP and PPM) not to promise everything to everyone “because this is not governing”.

And this is the nub of the issue: what is going on in the country right now is not ‘normal’: television commentator Luís Marques Mendes, himself a former leader of the PSD social democrats, said last night that he has never seen an election campaign like this. He was referring mainly to the fact that the two ‘principal parties’ (PS and PSD) are knee deep in judicial embarrassments: whether it is the corruption probe that broke last week in Madeira; the corruption probe that Justice has dilly-dallied over for the last 10 years involving a former Socialist prime minister – or the ‘favoritism/ influence peddling’ insinuations that brought down the government, now in ‘caretaker’ mode until elections on March 10 – and beset from all sides by street protests and complaints. To add to this we have every executive, from the mainland to the regional archipelagos, mired in political crisis: the Azores have elections next week; the mainland elections in March and Madeira is almost certainly to follow as soon as the law permits.

What can anyone do in these circumstances but ‘promise the earth’? And this is exactly what is happening.

Political analyst Paulo Baldeia this morning has likened the situation to an “auction to see who will give the most, very concentrated on pensioners” (every party wants to see pensioners ‘lifted’ from the poverty the vast majority have been left in for decades).

This means, explains Baldaia, that the two main parties understand how ‘undecided’ the country is; how fractured the vote will be (due to the existence of so many smaller parties), how essentially ‘angry’ the people are – and are setting out to pander to them; appealing to every unfulfilled sector that they can find, in order to ‘win the day’.

If one looks carefully at the promises being bandied about, there are no timelines. Just promises. And, as many pundits have stressed, there is no ‘fine’ for promises made before elections that never reach the Statute books. ND