Pedro Santana Lopes and his new cabinet have been officially sworn in at a ceremony in Lisbon. The appointment means that the country continues to be led by the centre-right Social Democrats, with the right-wing Popular Party, led by Paulo Portas, as the Social Democrats’ key coalition partner.
The reshuffled cabinet contains many new members, notably in the foreign and finance ministries. In fact, the new cabinet contains only six members of the previous government, indicating a desire on the part of Santana Lopes to stamp his new authority in the cabinet and make a fresh start following economic uncertainty and the turmoil in Iraq.
Among the most important posts to see a reshuffle are the following: the new Finance Minister is António Bagão Felix, formerly Minister for Social Security and Employment, replacing Manuela Ferreira Leite. Known as the ‘Iron Lady’, commentators had viewed her dismissal as a near certainty. She was the most vocal internal opponent of Santana Lopes’ appointment to the top post and associated in the public’s mind with unpopular austerity measures.
The new Foreign Minister is António Monteiro, a career diplomat, who has replaced Teresa Gouveia. Some commentators have seen this as a government attempt to break with the unpopular pro-American stance adopted last year before the invasion of Iraq. The new Justice Minister is José Pedro Aguiar Branco, who replaces Celeste Cardona. Daniel Sanches is the new Minister for Internal Administration, replacing António Figueiredo Lopes. The new Culture Minister is Maria João Bustorff, replacing Pedro Roseta. Santana Lopes is widely viewed as a populist, to the right of Durão Barroso, but he has emphasised that he will pay close attention to improving the conditions of the poor. “I am not here to look after the interests of the powerful,” he said last weekend. “The social dimension will be present in all the acts of my government.”
Despite this declaration, and the dismissal of his unpopular finance minister, Santana Lopes, 48, said he would continue with the main policies of his predecessor – including his deficit-cutting measures.
Santana Lopes also paid tribute to his predecessor, conveying his admiration and appreciation to Durão Barroso. Speaking of his new government, Santana Lopes declared that, “it is a legitimate government because, in respect of the constitution, it was enabled by the decision of the President of the Republic and because it is based on a parliamentary majority.”
Giving the public an insight into his political views, Santana Lopes maintained that “private initiative is the motor” of economic development, but pledged that his government would help in the social sphere.
Key four top posts:
Pedro Santana Lopes (Prime Minister)
Born June 29, 1956
Father of five children
Joined the PDS in 1976
Assembly Deputy in 1980, 83, 85, 87 and 91
President of Câmara Municipal de Lisboa (2001-2004)
Bagão Felix (Finance Minister)
Secretary of State for Social Security in early PDS governments
Secretary of state for work and Professional Training in 1987.
Minister of Social Security and Employment (2002-2004)
Daniel Sanches (Minister for Internal Administration)
Magistrate from 1984
Director General of the SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras)
Recently was member of the counsel of administration of the Banco Portuguese de Negocios.
António Monteiro (Foreign Minister)
Born in Angola in 1944.
Began diplomatic career in 1967.
A former close confidante of Barroso. Ambassador to the United Nations since 1997.
His appointment marks the return of an ambassador to the top post after Teresa Gouveia and her predecessor, António Martins da Cruz.