Marcelo emerged from Belém Palace on Wednesday evening, to talk to journalists and buy an ice cream... Image: Ana Luísa Monteiro
Marcelo emerged from Belém Palace on Wednesday evening, to talk to journalists and buy an ice cream... Image: Ana Luísa Monteiro

Political crisis: “Revenge is a dish best served cold” 

President “emerges ‘less fragilised’ than discredited government of António Costa”

President Marcelo’s “tough words” to the Socialist government as he addressed the nation last night were minutely dissected by commentators well into the small hours. But the bottom line analysis is that Marcelo – even in retaining the discredited executive of António Costa, a government the head of State now says he will have to watch even more carefully than he has in the past – emerges from this latest nadir in national politics “less fragilised” than the government.

Infrastructures minister João Galamba – maintained in an act of defiance by the PM – is “a zombie minister”, in the view of Expresso journalist and SIC director Ricardo Costa, who shares the surname of the PM for good reason: he is his half brother. 

He will have to go, sooner or later”, believes Ricardo Costa, as Galamba has been consistently painted by the media as a man who has been ‘lying to save his own skin’. Even today, tabloid Correio da Manhã headlines with more ‘inconvenient details’ that the minister has denied, but which others say to be true.

On a superficial level, the president’s speech changed nothing: “He brought down the government (with his criticism) but he keeps the government on, saying he will be watching them more closely. Hasn’t he been watching them up till now?” Público journalist Ana Sá Lopes queried.

There is the feeling that Marcelo’s words were more a case of  ‘giving the government more rope’, in which either it will step up to the job (of actually governing), or (apparently more likely) hang itself.

The TAP inquiry is key in this unseemly debacle: “The PS wants to avoid it stretching into other areas”, explains Expresso. Had PM Costa got his way and forced Marcelo to ‘dissolve parliament’, the danger of those areas coming to light would dissipate, as the inquiry would come to a screeching halt. Now it is ‘business as usual’, with PS Socialists reportedly focused on “damage control”, and doing everything they can to stop opposition MPs on the commission from “investigating other things” (and other people) when it comes to the government’s handling of matters within the State’s flagship airline. With the nation’s media holding onto this story like a dog with a bone, it seems inevitable that much more ‘dirt’ will bob to the surface over the next few weeks and months.

Commentators last night were agreed, parliament may not have been dissolved last night, but dissolution is coming – almost certainly next year, after the European elections.

Until then, Marcelo’s speech alluded to Portuguese citizens “deserving more and better” – not simply in the actions and quality of political leaders, but in terms of answers to the deep-seated day-to-day problems, like the cost of living crisis, the inability of so many to buy a home, even rent a home, etc etc. The “large very positive numbers” and ‘good economic news’ given by the government “has not arrived in the lives of the majority of Portuguese citizens” – and this is what Marcelo aims to see changing.

As columnist Armando Esteves Pereira suggests, Marcelo “will be more critical from now on, and when he can, he will use that atomic bomb” (the power to dissolve parliament). But there is no great rush: Marcelo is trailing that rope: “revenge is a dish best served cold”, recalls Esteves Pereira, alluding to that ingeniously photogenic ice-cream that Marcelo made a point of purchasing, and eating very slowly, the evening before he made his announcement.

Telling too was the fact that last night PS Socialists made a point of ‘not reacting’ to the president’s speech: parliamentary speakers booked to take part in late night television panel discussions ‘cancelled’ their participations, and even today, up till midday at least, there is an absolute dearth of government ‘response’.

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