… but opposition parties talk of ‘dead men walking’
Another day, another round of PJ police swoops on possible political corruption – this time returning to Lisbon City Hall but not, we’re told, regarding the investigation behind last week’s searches; another flurry of press speculation that the government simply can’t continue – and a rising crescendo of recrimination from parties in opposition.
PSD and CHEGA say João Gomes Cravinho is “fatally wounded”, for saying one thing in parliament and then being ‘corrected’ by subsequent events (not to mention for being the shareholder in a business involving a convicted fraudster); Correio da Manhã tabloid has returned to the ‘Tutti Frutti investigation’, involving finance minister Fernando Medina, and environment minister Duarte Cordeiro, with the latter retaliating over Facebook, essentially saying “it’s all lies” – and prime minister António Costa has ‘spoken’ for the first time over his surprise to discover that the former infrastructures minister ‘forgot’ that he had ‘okayed’ a particularly large, apparently illegal, golden handshake over Whatsapp.
What does it all mean? Well, for now, the prime minister is doing his best to say ‘onward and upward’.
Challenged by journalists as he accompanied the minister for housing in Carnaxide (Oeiras) today, he said he himself has nothing to fear from the fact that judicial investigations at Lisbon City Hall have widened to include the years that he himself was mayor.
And if the investigations behind last week’s searches end up implicating his successor as mayor Fernando Medina, now finance minister, then ‘so be it… Nobody is above the law’.
Last weekend pundits were saying any further involvement of Mr Medina in this intrigue (whatever it is) would lead to the fall of the government. Today, that is not looking so consequent: President Marcelo has insisted he has no intention of dissolving parliament in the context of an already complicated global and economic reality, and Mr Costa has gone back to affirming his mantra of “stability at all costs” (even if everything around him appears to be leaning wildly sideways).
“I maintain confidence in all members of the government in office” was the headline offered by State news agency Lusa today, which went on to say Mr Costa has every confidence in João Gomes Cravinho.
“It would not be normal for a minister to lie about what he knows or what he does not know”, the PM told reporters. “Therefore, if a minister tells the truth, that is to be praised.”
This was perhaps the most remarkable sentence to have come out of today. Events however move at such pace that almost no-one seems to have commented on it.
“The message the Portuguese have given is that they want stability”, Mr Costa insisted. “A government that governs and that focuses on its job of solving problems. What is needed are not new political crises.”
Lusa’s report continues: “Faced with the insistence of journalists about the recent successive changes in his government, the leader of the executive considered that “they occurred for very different reasons”, from health issues “to two serious political problems (…) There have also been more recent problems with some members of the government, not in relation to any activity they may have carried out while members of the government, but because of situations in their previous lives, or even the lives of their relatives…”
For António Costa, said the State news agency “these are situations that nobody wants”. The PM said he “deeply regrets” the fact that there has been “less focus of the government in its activities” (or rather, in the activities the government would like people to focus on), “but I believe that it is a phase that is over“, he said.
“Stability is an important value, because it allows us to ensure continuity of policies,” Mr Costa added.
Time now for a deep breath as the country braces for whatever it is that tomorrow’s tabloid headlines brings.