Passos names Portugal’s new government and vows it will last four years

In a surprise move on Tuesday, Portugal’s prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho put faces to the country’s new minority government, vowing it was be capable of lasting four years.

His announcement saw PS opposition leader António Costa almost instantly declare that the new executive “has no future and knows it”.

What is more is that it involves three new ministers who have all been involved in high-profile controversies – not least Calvão da Silva (taking over internal administration) who actually gave evidence to support the suitability of former BES boss Ricardo Salgado months before the private bank imploded.

But as reactions to Passos’ appointments ignite the left-wing parties that between them hold parliamentary majority, the bottom line is that Portugal’s political impasse continues – with the world’s press jostling for impactive headlines.

These came in droves last week following President Cavaco Silva’s hard hitting speech, where he claimed it was the worst possible moment in Portugal’s recovery to do anything other than to appoint the party that had received the most votes – no matter whether it would be defeated within days of taking office.

In UK, the Telegraph summed the confusion up as “another nadir in the eurozone’s shaky democracy”.

The Wall Street Journal took the same line, suggesting Cavaco was putting his own political persuasion before the stark reality that left-wing parties outnumbered any kind of centre-right alliance.

Here, Diário de Notícias intimated that no matter what takes place in the next few days, Cavaco would rather have a toothless “caretaker administration” than let the PS Socialists lead a new government.

For anyone who does not understand the full picture, the way ahead is clouded by the fact that Cavaco is reaching the end of his last term in office, and cannot call new elections.

His most-likely replacement – Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, also PSD – has already affirmed, hypothetically, that he wouldn’t leave this mess to anyone else if he was president… thus Portugal’s state of political limbo is starting to smell very bad indeed.

For now, no one is quantifying the financial cost of not pressing ahead with the structural reforms that Brussels insists are so badly needed.

Talk in cafés is that “we’re doing fine without a government!” But Eurostat’s publication last week of data to show Portugal has the EU’s second highest deficit, and third worst level of public debt, reveals this to be nonsense.

National tabloid Correio da Manhã has come up with the next few weeks’ scenario: Cavaco will swear Passos’ new government in on Friday; it will then have 10 days to present its parliamentary programme.

This will then be debated in parliament over three days – and already three motions of censure are promised from the left-wing parties that hold more votes between them than anything coming from the government. Thus, the government will fall and Cavaco will once again be faced with a decision on who should lead the country.

CM adds that if Cavaco opts for a “caretaker government” – in other words, leaving the shambles to his successor to sort out – Passos Coelho has already said he will not be heading it.

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Photo: LUSA