Opposition leader accuses PM of “strangling democracy”

By CHRIS GRAEME chris.graeme@mmspublishing.com

Prime Minister José Sócrates has been accused of “strangling democracy” in Portugal by the leader of the centre-right PSD party opposition.

In the first of a series of election run-up televised interviews, Manuela Ferreira Leite claimed on RTP channel that “democratic asphyxia” was the key problem in Portuguese society.

The leader of the opposition also said that she did not believe in the budget that had been presented by the government and hinted at a possible coalition with the conservative CDS-PP party headed by Paulo Portas.

In her accusation that the government had gagged democracy in Portugal, she said: “The type of environment that is being created in the country, by José Sócrates’s government, neither intimidates nor will it affect me.”

She was referring to the way she would fight the election campaign and lead a future government.

Manuela Ferreira Leite made the comment after having been asked about recent news that some advisors and aides to President Cavaco Silva had collaborated in the formulation and preparation of the PSD electoral manifesto.

The PSD leader guaranteed that her party’s electoral programme had been prepared without the help of anyone working for the President of the Republic, but said she was surprised that socialist MPs would consider the giving of such advice as “bad if that had indeed happened”.

Playing the victim

She said that it was certain that José Sócrates would “lose the elections” and that the Prime Minister needed to show that he was being “victimised” through the President of the Republic’s office.

“He’s playing the victim, his government is in crisis and he’s going to lose the elections and now he’s saying this crisis is being caused by the President and the fault isn’t the government’s,” she said.

She claimed the government deficit was running at around eight per cent, well above the 5.9 per cent claimed by the government.

Manuela Ferreira Leite refused to make idle promises about the economy but said her government would introduce a “new programme aimed at putting the brakes on economic decline” by helping small and medium enterprises and only investing in limited public works projects.

The PSD leader said it was “impossible to raise taxes” but intended to create tax breaks “to do with productivity and foreign investment” and mentioned a single social tax and lower business tax in “some cases”.

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