The knives are out this week for ‘government blood’. Since the catastrophic handling of the fatal accident on the A6 motorway, calls for prime minister António Costa to ‘clean house’ and buck-up his team have come from every quarter.
Keen political commentator Luís Marques Mendes maintains the government is “in serious degradation”. Opposition leader Rui Rio says it is “worn out” and “disoriented”.
Prime minister António Costa is not the kind of man to jump in the face of this level of criticism.
He said over the weekend that ‘there are no plans on the horizon’ to re-shuffle or substitute members of his ‘Cabinet’.
The question is “can he afford to wait?” With so much ‘not going perfectly’ and local elections looming in September, can he really afford to rest on worn-out laurels before the country goes to the ballot boxes?
It didn’t help that Expresso carried a long article last Friday suggesting foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva is fairly champing at the bit to return to lecturing at his former university… That too was rapidly reined back by Mr Costa, with the faintly odd explanation that “even the coldest rationalist can have a moment of ingenuity when talking to journalists”.
Perhaps the bottom line in all the criticism is that the constant whittling away at ‘due process’; the fact that bi-monthly parliamentary debates have been axed, that regular DGS press conferences have disappeared; that arbitrary new rules have been brought into place, yet still very little – certainly in terms of the pandemic – seems to have improved.
In the opinion of Luís Marques Mendes whose political insight is usually right on the button, a ‘remodelling’ of Portugal’s Socialist government “cannot come too soon”.
To wait until after the municipal elections in September could be to lose further ground.