Portugal’s centre-right government falls leaving future back in Cavaco’s hands

As pundits have long been predicting, yesterday afternoon saw the fall of Portugal’s centre-right government, just 11 days after it had been sworn in for a second four-year term pushing austerity.

The majority alliance of left-wing parties voted into parliament last month succeeded in toppling the PSD-CDS coalition with a motion of rejection presented by the PS Socialists.

But as the country was variously celebrating and commiserating, the truth is the way ahead is still fraught with uncertainty.

Outgoing prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho is due to have an audience with President Cavaco Silva later this afternoon, in which he is more than likely to maintain his attitude that the left-wing alliance of PS, PCP (communists) and BE (Bloco Esquerda) cannot ensure political stability.

It will then be up to Cavaco to decide – yet again – what to do.

Swearing in the minority centre-right coalition last month, Cavaco was buoyed by the Constitution and historical precedent. This time round, he is in uncharted territory.

But as international observers have pointed out, he could be hoist by his own petard if he does not call António Costa to form the next government. In his speech explaining why he chose to ask Passos Coelho to form a minority government last month, Cavaco played the “Portugal needs stability” line. Without a viable new government commanding a majority in parliament, there can be none of that. There will be no State Budget – a situation that would see vital reforms falling by the wayside, explains the BBC today. Thus, Cavaco’s decision may already have been made for him.

For a full report on the state of play and what it will mean for Portugal, see tomorrow’s paper edition of the Resident.