Portugal’s political impasse “threatens all European democracies”

With the longevity of Portugal’s next government still to be quantified, the world’s press is sitting on the sidelines, jostling for high-impact headlines.

According to the UK Telegraph, Portugal’s constitutional crisis presents “another nadir in the eurozone’s shaky democracy” and, as such, threatens all European democracies.

In Canada, blog writers have queried: “Was there just a coup in Portugal? Why did Canada’s media ignore the story?”, and in Spain, outgoing prime minister Mariano Rajoy has done his best to condemn the ongoing leftist shenanigans, saying they “don’t please me at all”.

But the truth is no-one is any closer to predicting what is about to happen.

Can the PS Socialists reach a deal with left-wing parties to form a stable government – and, more importantly, would President Cavaco Silva give his blessing to such a pact?

It is a scenario that Cavaco’s speech last week intimated was unthinkable.

As the UK Guardian explains: “Even if the prime minister’s four-year programme is voted down and the government collapses, Cavaco Silva could in principle opt to leave him in place at the head of a caretaker government with limited powers until fresh elections can be held next June – potentially triggering a full-blown political crisis.”

Today, Portugal’s prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho named his cabinet for what Associated Press has said “could be one of the country’s briefest governments ever”.

Cavaco meantime is away on a state visit till Thursday, so the government cannot be sworn in until Friday.

For now, Passos Coelho’s cabinet has few major changes and, all observers are agreed, can expect to accomplish very little.

Finance minister Maria Luís Albuquerque remains at her post, as do many others. Changes are in health, internal administration (yes, the minister who said “err…” on camera multiple times is out), justice, economy, education, parliamentary affairs and culture.

As one reader of Diário de Notícias’ report on the new line up commented: “So many doctors! (referring to the fact that university graduates in Portugal give themselves the title of doctor) At least no one in parliament will get sick.”
That’s of course if they are there long enough to catch anything.

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