FOLLOWING MONTHS of speculation, Mário Soares is now an official candidate for the Presidential Elections in 2006, when current President of the Republic, Jorge Sampaio, completes his term in office. However, the voting process did not pass off without controversy.
Eleven voted against the 80-year-old former President and Prime Minister standing again – voters who have been supporters of his rival, Manuel Alegre.
Some absentees were noted at the meeting, such as Manuel Alegre, Maria de Belém, Alberto Martins and João Cravinho. However, support for Mário Soares was agreed by a resounding majority – 163 of the 175 Commission’s members who participated in the meeting.
MP Jorge Coelho justified the support given by the Socialist Party (PS) to Mário Soares for three reasons: “He is Portugal’s most prestigious politician internationally, a candidate who calls for national cohesion and the unity of the Portuguese people. He will use his term in office to guarantee the country’s stability.”
However, these arguments don’t appear to be shared by everyone in the party. Members such as Helena Roseta, who voted against Soares, said: “It is negative for the democracy that Dr. Mário Soares feels obliged to put himself forward as a candidate once again.” She disputes that there is no valid argument to be found to justify the former President’s attempt to return to Belém. The Socialist MP guarantees that she will not support the candidacy of Mário Soares and hopes that she will not be punished for this.
Meanwhile, Jorge Coelho guaranteed yesterday that no punishments will be given to those who voted against. “In the Socialist Party, no one is punished for having different opinions,” he said.
One of the most emotional speeches came from António Campos, an old friend of Soares, who reminded those present of the time when Manuel Alegre was on the brink of being excluded from the list of MPs for Coimbra. “I rallied the party to defend him. So, I can say that the support of the PS for the candidacy of Soares is not a question of friends,” he concluded.