Mixed reactions to Cavaco’s “need for absolute majority” speech

There have been mixed reactions to the speech given by President Cavaco Silva on national TV last night in which he announced the date for Portugal’s legislative elections (Sunday, October 4) and stressed the need for an absolute majority in order to “ensure political stability”.

The country’s CDS party reacted with its belief that the coalition – of which it is part – would rely on such a majority, while more left-wing MPs questioned the value of absolute majorities altogether.

But perhaps a relevant voice in the storm of commentaries was that of leader writer Carlos Rodrigues who pointed out that Cavaco had “gone against the traditional preference for the internet” to make his announcement, “dramatising” the whole situation – when the Greek crisis has shown exactly what Europe thinks of democracy, and it “has nothing to do with absolute majorities” at all.

Rodrigues, deputy director of Correio da Manhã, claimed the next elections will be “those least interested in democracy”.

Elsewhere, international news agencies have reported that Portugal’s final result will have an effect on other countries hit by the financial crisis – namely Spain and Ireland – which also have elections looming, “as it will show what the Portuguese think of four years of austerity”.

“Associated Press writes that electors will have the choice of keeping the politics of austerity, or having more money available,” reports Económico website, while The Financial Times quotes economist Antonio Garcia Pascual as stressing that the battle for power will be firmly between the ruling PSD-CDS coalition and the PS.

The PS meantime, now ahead in the polls, has said Cavaco’s announcement has brought “a new dimension” to the whole process.

An absolute majority is what it has been working towards, campaign director Acenção Simões told Lusa – but now that the President has stressed this requirement, “it is even more important”.

If this was an example of political humour, it was delivered deadpan, with Simões cataloguing the list of social disasters created by “the current policies” of the coalition government.

Commentary on the worth of absolute majorities was provided by the PCP (Communist Party) which pointed out that absolute majorities in the past included those of Cavaco when he was a PSD leader, José Sócrates (now in jail) and “this majority of Passos Coelho and Paulo Portas”.

The “political stability” of absolute majorities, “in all these cases, has signified the destabilisation of people’s lives”, claimed parliamentary leader João Oliveira, adding that what should be much more on voters’ minds is what party will best defend their rights.

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