In this crucial election year – with a government that only got to power by making unprecedented alliances with the so-called ‘radical left’ – PS Socialists have been massively damaged by the ongoing ‘familygate’ scandal.
At least this is the bottom-line of a poll commissioned by popular tabloid Correio da Manhã.
And if this kind of negative splash on political nepotism wasn’t bad enough, Observador website has carried a story suggesting parliament is not averse to sending MPs on official business to hotels owned by other MPs and/ or their family members.
Despite the fact that Portugal’s ‘old boy network’ has been seen a key part of the political system for decades now, 62.8% of the electorate appear to have had enough. Familygate 2019 has suddenly been seen as overstepping all acceptable benchmarks.
The Observador story is just ‘another highly inconvenient’ addition to the pile of embarrassing newsbites, and even more inconveniently it involves the environment ministry – whose minister is suddenly in the spotlight for all kinds of unedifying reasons (click here).
Says the online news service: “Parliament decided on the stay of MPs of the Environment Commission at an hotel in Castelo Branco which has PS MP Hortense Martins as its owner.
“The Commission made a working visit to the Tejo River on April 1 and 2, accompanied by Hortense Martins, due to her having been elected within that district”.
The MPs ended up staying in Martins’ hotel on the night before the visit (night of March 31) so that they could be on time for the first point of the programme, an 8.30 meeting on the Monday, “the host of which was the mayor of Castelo Branco and husband of Hortense Martins, Luís Correia”.
“Hortense Martins has told Observador that she didn’t know her colleagues were going to stay at the hotel which is owned by a company where she is a partner of her father”, Observador continued, adding, that the “office of the secretary general of Parliament has justified the choice (of hotel) saying it was the cheapest” of two options presented by a travel agency that works for parliament.
“The same office did not answer the question as to why the hotel was not avoided due to the fact that it belonged to an MP”.
The dismal story just goes on getting worse.
Says Observador: “A curious fact is that the host of the meeting (on the Monday) – the mayor of Castelo Branco, Hortense Martins husband – was recently linked, in an investigation by Público, to a group of mayors who created a ghost NGO to receive public subsidies”.
The same NGO has also had “problems over tenders being given to family (-associated) businesses …” the site adds.
For instance, Hortense Martins’ father (the same man who owns the company that owns the hotel where the MPs stayed in the interests of financial probity) has a business that has benefitted from seven ‘direct’ contracts (ie jobs not put out to any kind of tender process).
And so it seems to continue.
Familygate, far from being staunched with the resignations of two cousins within the environment ministry, has become a tentacular train-wreck which the electorate is not appreciating.
Says CM in its story about the PS’ falling popularity, 31% of those questioned think the whole issue is very serious indeed, 30.7% think it’s serious, and 15.5% think it’s ‘possibly, just the way things have always been…” (CM’s description: “so so” on the serious scale).
Nationals quizzed on the performance of the President of the Republic (often dubbed the President of People’s Affections) think this “has also seen better days”, says CM.
Last April President Marcelo’s popularity rating was a thumping 18.3 out of 20, this April it’s a middle-of-the-road 15.
According to Observador, lawyers consulted about the hotel stay seem to think that there is legislation in place that leaves the booking on the wrong side of the rulebooks.
As they say in Portugal, “it’s complicated”, but one thing is certain, it’s none of it looking good.