President Marcelo has fired a broadside ahead of negotiations starting today over Portugal’s 2021 budget.
The issue – as everyone is only too painfully aware – is that thanks to the ravages of the pandemic there is ‘no booty’ to distribute this year.
“We are in the greatest economic crisis of our times”, intone the headlines, and yet still political parties are ‘posturing’.
The minority Socialist government is hoping to construct next year’s budget with the help of ‘left wing allies’ that shoehorned it into power five years ago (when the PS had actually lost the elections).
And this is where Marcelo has come in. The last thing Portugal needs right now is a political crisis. Yet with the press fanning flames of ‘discontent’ (particularly over the Prime Minister’s unfortunate remarks about doctors click here), the likelihood of one has been simmering relentlessly on the back burner for weeks now.
In Lisbon for the start of the city’s Feira do Livre (Book Fair), Marcelo made it quite clear that whatever political parties may think they are up to, he will not dissolve parliament in the eventuality that there is no consensus over the new budget.
“It’s unthinkable that in the middle of an economic crisis, with everyone knowing there is a risk of a second wave of contagion, that parties wouldn’t agree and provoke a political crisis. The Portuguese people simply would not understand it” he said.
“There has to be dialogue between parties”, Marcelo stressed, adding: “The President of the Republic will not be involved in political crises. Anyone who thinks that by not making an effort at agreement parliament would be dissolved is deluding themselves”.
The head of State thus emphatically drew a line in the sand as PM António Costa prepares to meet representatives of Bloco de Esquerda, PAN and PEV (the greens) to broker a new alliance to take the country forwards.
This isn’t just about the OE 2021. It’s about the remaining years of this government which will now be dealing with the distribution of the Brussels’ ‘bazooka’ of grants and loans to help Portugal’s recovery.
Said Duarte Cordeiro, Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs, this will be an alliance taking the country through “various budgets and the plan of response to the crisis and community funds”.
It is “very important” these parties agree “to deflect alternatives”, he stressed.
PCP communists – who were part of the original set of PS allies in 2015 – have cancelled their planned meeting with Mr Costa today. It is understood a new meeting will be arranged ‘when both parties’ diaries permit’.