MP who negotiated massive pay increases for judiciary “is married to a judge”

With a new ‘controversy’ surrounding the vote in parliament last week to massively increase judges’ salaries, two newspapers have revealed that the MP coordinating the commission that proposed the change is … married to a judge who will benefit handsomely as a result.

Fernando Anastácio and his wife Maria José Machado appear to have some ‘baggage’ but the PS MP nonetheless managed skillfully to ensure judges’ salaries could now exceed the salary of the country’s prime minister.

This has never happened before, explain reports that stress “at present the salary of no public official may exceed that of the prime minister”.

The change means judges’ salaries may now be increased as long as they remain below that of the Portuguese president.

How this move managed to become approved is a bit of an issue.

Says Lusa, the governing PS Socialist party, the right wing CDS-PP, the Communists (PCP) and the Greens (PEV) clinched it with the Left Bloc (BE), social democrats (PSD), PAN (People Animals Nature) and the only independent MP (originally Socialist) voting against.

But after the vote “several Socialist MPs went on record” to say they voted in favour due to the imposition of the party whip.

“That prompted Carlos César, the leader of the party, to publicly contradict them”, said the State news agency – but the damage appears to have been done.

CDS-PP MP Pedro Mota Soares “went on record, also citing the imposition of a party whip as the reason for his vote in favour”, added Lusa.

Increasing the feelings of unease came stories in Expresso and Jornal de Notícias highlighting Fernando Anastácio’s delicate position (in that he is married to a judge).

Anastácio, however, said he can see no incompatibility with the situation whatsoever.

PSD president Rui Rio has been particularly scathing, accusing the government of being “strong with the weak and weak with the strong”.

Over Twitter, Rio showed pay scales that suggest judges will be in line for increases of up to 700 euros per month.

And as subsequent reports have explained, Maria João Machado isn’t ‘an unknown’: “in 2013 she was given a warning by the Superior Council of Magistrates for participating in the election campaign of her husband” – who was then gunning for the job of mayor of Albufeira, writes Observador.

Two years later, says JN, it was Maria José Machado who absolved former minister of education Maria de Lurdes Rodrigues, in a case in which she had been condemned to three and a half years jail, suspended, for the crime of prevarication within political office.

Husband’s Fernando’s ‘baggage’ is cited by Observador and harks back to the ‘happy families row’ earlier this year when the government faced criticism over the number of family members in its ranks (click here).

In the midst of the negative publicity, Duarte Cordeiro, deputy secretary of state for parliamentary affairs, nominated Pedro Anastácio – the 25-year-old son of Fernando and Maria João Machado – as his right-hand.

Anastácio jr was to earn a monthly salary of 3.575,46 euros wrote Observador at the time, adding that before his new job he spent a “short period of time” working for the law office of Eduardo Paz Ferreira, the husband of Justice minister Francisca Van Dúnem.

In another story entirely this week, tabloid Correio da Manhã has been probing cases appealed from Portugal to the European Court of Human Rights, running with the front page headline: “Errors in Justice cost the State 25 million (euros)”.

Of 345 cases taken to the court over the last 12 years, Portugal has lost 262 of them, incurring hefty damages.

Whether the parliamentary vote to up judges’ salaries gets the ultimate green light from President Marcelo now awaits to be seen.

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