Portugal elections: parties’ programmes being presented thick and fast

PS Socialists due to present their electoral programme later today

After commentators complained that televised election debates were too much theatre, and too little substance, Portugal’s political parties have been racing to the touchline in terms of presenting their electoral programmes for elections in exactly four weeks’ time.

CHEGA and the PSD-led Democratic Alliance have been the latest to announce their list of intentions, while PS Socialists are due to present theirs later today.

First to announce was Bloco de Esquerda almost three weeks ago. This is the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what the minority party whose support PS would undoubtedly consider if it ‘wins’ the elections on March 10 without a working majority:

  • Reduction of IVA on gas, electricity and telecoms bills to 6%
  • A solidarity tax imposed on ‘large fortunes’ (classified as assets valued at above 2000 minimum national salaries)
  • A tax on excessive profits
  • Prohibiting the sale of property to non-residents (with the exception of Portuguese who live abroad, foreign residents in Portugal and property in areas of low populational density
  • Limiting Alojamento Local
  • Ensuring 25% of all new constructions are for accessible housing
  • An end to all fiscal benefits encouraging speculation and to non-habitual residents 
  • Recovery of time ‘frozen’ to all teachers
  • A compensation regime for teachers placed far from home
  • 125,000 new spaces to be made available in the public network of creches
  • Increase in national minimum salary to €900 this year and rising thereafter by the value of inflation +€50
  • A four-day working week of 35 hours.

PCP communists – another former PS ‘partner’ in António Costa’s first government in 2015 – were the next up to give their programme, which centres on:

  • Increasing national minimum wage (to €1000, this year)
  • Reducing the working week to 35 hours, 7 hours per day
  • A 15% increase in salaries
  • Altering labour laws, in workers’ favour
  • Scrapping the reprivatisation of TAP airline
  • Re-nationalising CTT (Post Office) and PT (Portugal Telecom)
  • Creating a national ‘hamper of essential goods/ services’ on which IVA is only charged at 6%.

Then came Iniciativa Liberal, whose slogan is “get the country working”. IL’s ‘manifesto’ centres on lowering taxes and getting private companies involved in social policies. It has not referred in any way to the demands, for example of teachers/ police/ farmers/ health service professionals.

The main points of IL’s programme are:

  • Ensuring GPs for pregnant women (from first month of pregnancy)/ children over the age of 9 and people over the age of 65
  • Building, or at least starting the building, of 250,000 homes by 2028
  • Recovering children’s lost learning (as a result of pandemic/ strikes and teacher shortages) by encouraging retired teachers back into the profession on the basis that they would receive a salary on top of their pensions. This proposal is to address the recent PISA evaluation, that showed Portuguese pupils had fallen substantially behind European averages
  • Salaries of €1,500 net by 2028 – meaning a minimum national wage of €2,130 “far beyond what other parties are suggesting”)
  • Speeding up administrative justice: on average cases take 850 days to travel through the court system. IL seeks to cut this figure by “at least a year”, with greater recourse to administrative arbitration.

CHEGA was next to present its programme, set out over 200 pages and with over 600 proposals. Critics have had a field day with CHEGA, suggesting there is no money available for so many proposals. But on the basis that much of what any party ‘pledges’ can go by the board (is certainly not set in stone), the essence of CHEGA’s intentions are to:

  • Create the crime of illicit enrichment (designed to weed out corrupt politicans at local and central levels)
  • Be able to ‘seize’ assets in cases of corruption involving public money and, when there are strong suspicions (for this read ‘clear evidence’), return these assets to the State” 
  • Reduce the number of appeals allowed in the justice system
  • Restrict the number of immigrants allowed into the country
  • Revoke the ‘mobility agreement’ signed with CPLP (Portuguese speaking countries)
  • Create the crime of “illegal residence on Portuguese soil”
  • Increase the national minimum wage (only to €1,000 by 2026)
  • Peg pensions to the national minimum wage (over six years)
  • Reduce taxes – lots of them: IRC/ IRS/ IVA and ISP (the tax on fuel, which it wants to see abolished altogether)
  • Restore teachers’ frozen years – in phases over the next four years
  • See the State ‘guarantee’ first-time mortgages for young people
  • Simplify licencing laws for new home constructions.

PAN and LIVRE have yet to formally present their programmes, but these are thought to centre on:

PAN: Reducing taxes and putting more homes on the market.

LIVRE: Ditto, but also this party would like to see the creation of a basic unconditional wage.

None of the above parties, including CHEGA – which is the country’s 3rd political force gaining ground consistently against the ‘big two’: PS Socialists and PSD social democrats – are expected to ‘win’ the elections, or come even close, but their support behind a new executive could prove crucial. And if that happens, they will expect some of their proposals to be adopted by that new executive.

This election, like all the others before it, is essentially between the Left, personified by PS Socialists, and the centre-right, led by PSD social democrats who have ‘teamed up’ this time to run with CDS-PP and PPM (neither party having any MPs in the current mainland parliament).

PSD leader Luís Montenegro presented the electoral programme of AD (the Democratic Alliance) on Friday. It centres on:

  • Implementing a learning recovery programme, “A+A: Learn More Now”.
  • Universal and free access to crèches and pre-schools;
  • Increasing the amount allocated to Culture in the State Budget by 50% over 4 years;
  • Doubling families’ personal income tax from 0.5% to 1 per cent to strengthen funding for social institutions;
  • Guaranteeing annual health check-ups “based on international best practice, in a personalised healthcare protocol between public, private and social providers”
  • Initiating, as a matter of priority, a process of professional development and remuneration for the Security Forces;
  • Strengthening measures for Transparency and Integrity and the fight against corruption by closing revolving doors, criminalising illicit enrichment, strengthening ‘reward measures’ to combat corruption, strengthening the means of investigation and prosecution of corruption
  • Creating a law to regulate lobbying
  • Restoring teachers’ frozen years, over five years
  • Reducing taxes, particularly when it comes to young people/ income tax
  • Increasing the solidarity complement for the elderly

Nothing is mentioned in the various texts on agriculture/ farmers, but the promotional video narrated by Luís Montenegro certainly features a farmer in a section where he talks about being the politician for people who have “given so much and received nothing”.

With PS Socialists due to present their programme at 5pm today, much has already been trailed by secretary-general Pedro Nuno Santos.

This far, the PS leader has pledged to:

  • Abolish (illegal) tolls on
  • Reduce taxes (IRS/ IRC)
  • Ease the terms of the solidary complement for the elderly
  • Create an SNS network of dentists
  • Widen the IVA discount on electricity so that the 6% level reaches 3.2 million households
  • Extend free creche/ pre-school places for all children between the ages of 3-6
  • Increase income tax deductions for people who rent
  • Restore teachers’ frozen years, in phases
  • Restore public sector workers’ frozen years, in stages
  • Reduce the speed with which Portugal repays its EU debt
  • Allow old people’s home doctors to write prescriptions (meaning residents do not have to travel to hospitals for this necessity)

The Resident will update the PS list of intentions once its electoral programme has been presented in Lisbon’s Teatro Thalia later this afternoon.

UPDATE: further pledges from the PS include:

  • Reimbursing families with children under the age of 18 “with the least resources” part of the IVA spent on essential goods (even if they do not pay IRS).

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