Rejecting the three laws ‘passed’ by President Marcelo on Sunday – extending urgent measures of social support – prime minister António Costa spent almost half an hour this evening explaining why the laws are unconstitutional and why he feels there is no alternative but to refer them for clarification to the Constitutional Court.
This is not about any kind of conflict with the president, he insisted. It is a question of principle. State Budgets are passed in parliament, and ‘sovereign’ for the government. They cannot be altered mid-term, not even by ‘new laws’. (Indeed the only way of ‘changing a State Budget is to vote through a rectifying budget, which finance minister João Leão discounted earlier today in interview with RTP).
Thus the valiant attempt by opposition parties to extend support measures appears to have fallen at the ‘final hurdle’.
But as the prime minister was at pains to point out, the country already has numerous support measures in place to try and face up to the ‘brutality’ caused by the pandemic crisis. Indeed, Social Security has already paid out in just three months 45% of its outlay in the whole of 2020.
Reacting to the news, opposition party Bloco de Esquerda – whose coordinator Catarina Martins has been a champion of this initiative – is not happy. They insist these extra measures are desperately needed by thousands of people prevented from earning the living they had pre-Covid.
For the time being, as Constitutional judges study the case, the measures have to be implemented (again, because the president passed the laws, therefore they are in place, unconstitutional or otherwise).
More on the implications of this decision tomorrow, when other parties will have had a chance to say how they feel.