With a number of political parties warning of the growth in Portugal of extremist groups, it’s perhaps a moot sign that France’s Marine Le Pen – president of the French National Union (aka National Front) – has praised André Ventura, the one MP representing right-wing Chega, as a “great political leader” who will take his party “to victory”.
Ms Le Pen’s eulogy, in the form of a video, was played during Chega’s national convention in Évora over the weekend – an event which could hardly have gone without more chaos.
The ‘problem’ involved internal conflicts within the party – and delegates unhappy with Ventura’s choice for people on the board of direction.
In the end after three votes and a lot of angst Ventura got the names he wanted – largely because by this time many of those taking part in the voting had gone home.
But the ‘story’ here is not that yet another political party has internal difficulties, it is that this is a party that claims to ‘represent the Portuguese people’ with a clear far-right agenda.
Other personalities at the convention included the front woman of the Ordem dos Enfermeiros (nurses council) Ana Rita Cavaco – more usually associated with the centre-right PSD, not the far-right. (She did stress that she had come ‘simply to kiss’ Ventura as an old friend. Her militancy she said remains with the PSD…)
But Chega’s focus, explains Expresso, is to shake everything up. Ventura’s first mission is to challenge President Marcelo in the presidential elections in January. Then it is set on causing “a big surprise” in the municipal elections later in the year.
Ultimately Ventura hopes to take the party to the point that it becomes the 3rd major force in the country (behind PS and PSD).
With both these traditional main parties already losing ground hand-over-fist in this unprecedented year beset with the usual scandals/ political ineptitude and financial uncertainty, societal dissatisfaction is almost certain to increase – thus Chega’s goal may not be that far-fetched.
Speaking at the weekend at a workshop in Aveiro, centre-right CDS/ PP MEP Nuno Melo stressed there is no dishonour in being centre-right, but party members should resist “becoming something else because it is fashionable”.
Marine Le Pen’s rubber-stamp of approval may help dent any such compulsion.
Her words described a “journey to a new world” which she felt Portugal would now be doing hand-in-hand with her own party.
“Brave and proud Portugal” will “rediscover its place” with Chega, said Le Pen who is currently focused purportedly on ‘changing the EU from within’.