Photo: Presidência da República
Photo: Presidência da República

Marcelo’s greatest fear: a third parliamentary dissolution

PSD’s categoric ‘no’ to alliance with CHEGA could cause (major) problems

With so many media stories today focused on the looming elections, Expresso has carried a story that suggests they may only be a passing blip on Portugal’s political panorama.

President Marcelo has reportedly been talking with his closest advisors, and is worried about the “no” constantly given by PSD leader Luís Montenegro in response to questions on a possible alliance with right-wing CHEGA.

It is a position that Marcelo apparently believes could lead to further instability … and new elections.

“In the first meeting of the year with members of his Civil House on Wednesday in Belém, the President conducted an exercise into all possible scenarios, and without aligning with any of them, did not omit conditions which could lead to a new dissolution of parliament”, explains the paper.

“The president knows that he will have a more demanding end to his mandate than he had hoped for, and that this will require more sang froid”, said Expresso’s reliable source, stressing the coming year will see the president taking a supremely central role, “so central that he won’t be free from having to revisit his maximum power. 

“The president is not fixed on this scenario”, the source assured. “But he doesn’t omit that if electors’ choices develop from a bipolar equilibrium to a tripolar one, in which a third party (in this case, CHEGA) is in a position to block solutions for (the formation of) government, the strategy followed by Luís Montenegro to refuse agreements with (CHEGA leader André) Ventura, and exclude being a government if the party loses the elections, even with a right wing majority, could complicate the game”.

Says Expresso, everyone in Belém “recognises it would be difficult for the PSD leader to repeat the 2015 strategy of António Costa” (PSD centre-right ‘won’ the elections, without a majority: Costa formed a left-wing majority with the more ‘radical left’, creating the ‘geringonça’ which ran until 2019). But they know the party would find it galling to turn its back on a chance for power, just because its leader refuses to embrace CHEGA.

This is where Marcelo accepts that, unless Montenegro “re-evaluates his strategies”, there could be a situation in which six months on from whatever the March elections bring, he has to move in again and ‘dissolve’ parliament…

It’s clear from Expresso’s text that Marcelo wants to leave the elections to citizens’ (the power of the people), but it is also clear that he is hoping they vote for ‘change’, in all senses.

“For the President of the Republic, hypothetical elections at the beginning of 2025 could be the last opportunity for the right to take power, allowing him to prepare his own exit with a golden key, and a bonus: any new government will want to have him as an ally, which would allow him to say end his mandate in a way that is most comfortable for him, as part of a solution that is as stable as possible…”

But, for now, these are only “scenarios”, says Expresso. Marcelo’s New Year speech was all about impressing on the electorate the importance of their vote: “there could be minority governments with agreements”, he said. 

“No one knows what will come from March 10, and it is not up to (Marcelo) to anticipate risks of ungovernability”, says Expresso. “It is up to political leaders themselves to assume the responsibility to construct solutions”.

To this end, the PS Socialist party congress this weekend has been all about constructing solutions: incoming leader Pedro Nuno Santos has made no bones about the problems ahead, the errors of the past – and his determination to fix them “for the whole country”.

Bloco de Esquerda is open to agreements, PCP communists have stressed they could be too, Nuno Santos is known for his fondness for the ‘old geringonça’... and political commentators, like former Socialist euro MP Ana Gomes, are reminding news anchors that the PS is going to emerge from this congress “full of vigor for the fight” ahead.

As for the ‘leaks’ strategically placed on Thursday and Friday, about Operation Influencer, suggesting that the PM could well be cited for prevarication, “this shows people that there is, in fact, a rather grubby centre that is using court cases to try and dirty everyone”.

Ms Gomes used an old saying of PS legend Mário Soares as a warning: “When the going gets tough, the PS gets tougher”… ND

Source material: Expresso/ SIC Notícias