“Government in paralysis”; “PM lacking authority”

Former president of Republic launches new attack

Aníbal Cavaco Silva may be a political has-been, but like Tony Blair in the UK, he doesn’t see things that way.

The former PSD president ‘pops up’ every now and then – invariably with a blistering attack on those that have picked up the mantle of power.

Yesterday was another of those moments. Publishing an article in Público, the 83-year-old accused the government of “paralysis”, of being “disoriented” and of “lacking reformist will”.

To be fair, the first six months of this latest Socialist administration have seen political fracases fall over each other. As all media sources have observed, hardly a week goes by without another embarrassment; indeed, some weeks go by with more than one new embarrassment – last week being a veritable jamboree of political disasters, topped by the husband of a minister whose ministry had bestowed hundreds of thousands in community funding to his businesses being found in partnership with a convicted Chinese fraudster. This particular embarrassment has seen the husband say he sees no problem with being in business with a convicted felon – and that he “never abandons a friend”… But more of that in a separate story.

Aníbal Cavaco Silva has been following the various ups and downs (perhaps more to the point, the downs and downs) of this flailing administration, and clearly feels it is time to draw a line in the sand.

“It is fundamental that parties of the Opposition, civil institutions and the press contribute towards (pushing) the prime minister and the government out of their situation of immobilism on a path that allows Portugal, within the next 10 years, to return to being in 15th position in developmental terms among the 27 countries of the European Union”, he writes – pointing out that 15th position was last held in 2002. Since then, Portugal has relentless slipped backwards, currently finding itself in 21st place (right down at the bottom).

Cavaco Silva blames the country’s economic stagnation squarely on PS Socialists.

When the new government took over six months ago, he had hoped that “at the end of six months of absolute PS majority there might have been objective information that would allow an evaluation of the government’s political courage to carry out decisive reforms to place the Portuguese economy on a sustainable growth trajectory above that of other countries within the European Union”. But, no, there is none of that. In many ways, the ‘embarrassments’ have taken all the thunder, as well as the ‘tricks’, particularly with regard to pensions.

It is ‘indispensable that Portugal stops being a country of minimum wages,  with an impoverished middle class, wretched pensions and poor-quality public services’, stressed the former head of State, echoing entreaties that go back decades.

In Lisbon, parliamentary leader of the PSD party, Joaquim Miranda Sarmento, labelled Cavaco’s latest tirade “very important” – as it could prompt citizens to ‘reflect’ on what is basically not happening.

“Professor Cavaco Silva once again makes a warning that it is necessary for the government to take structural reforms to increase the competitiveness and productivity of the Portuguese economy,” he told Lusa.

As for the perceived lack of authority of prime minister António Costa – many have been querying HOW Mr Costa could have allowed the level of confusion that has been playing out recently – Miranda Sarmento said “the conduct of the government and the conduct of politics belongs to the prime minister. The Prime Minister is the one who is lacking authority and who is lacking direction and coordination”… leaving the ‘solution’ to this power failure very much ‘hanging’.

Ironically, Cavaco Silva’s ‘attack’ came as INE statistics institute published September’s inflation figures. The ‘lull’ registered in August was simply that. Inflation is back at 9.3%, the highest it has been for 30 years – and according to Miranda Sarmento, it cannot all be blamed on the war in Ukraine. He told Lusa, his party has been sounding warnings over rising inflation levels since the beginning of the year.

On cue, Expresso this weekend is running with a new poll, suggesting citizens are deeply fed up with the performance of the PS government, with voting intentions slowly shifting away from the party, albeit it is still the most popular political force.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not), the 4-point fall in PS support appears to have found a new home in right wing CHEGA, who has a 4-point lead on the percentage of the national vote that it held six months ago.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com