Portugal’s prime minister António Costa has officially resigned.
Mr Costa’s resignation had been touted all morning as the country has been assailed by allegations of high-level corruption concerning lithium and hydrogen prospection, and the news that “a separate investigation” has been opened into suspicions that the prime minister himself had “facilitated business” in lithium mines in Montalegre and Boticas.
As commentators have said, “no country, no government can support a prime minister who is suspected of being a facilitator“.
Mr Costa was due to have spoken to the country at 2pm. At 2.24 television cameras were still rolling on an empty podium in São Bento Palace (the PM’s official residence)… and then he arrived.
The PM said that up until this morning he had every intention of carrying his mandate through to the end (due in 2026), but that “today, I was surprised with the information, confirmed by the press office of the Attorney General, that a criminal process has, or will be, opened against me”.
With “a clear conscience“, “no weight upon (him)” of “having done anything censurable“, he accepts that there is no way a prime minister under suspicion of a crime can remain in office, and thus he has tendered his resignation to President Marcelo, who accepted it.
No clarity has been given on the fate of the government, now that two key ministers are official suspects for the crimes of prevarication, active and passive corruption and the trafficking of influences. Nor is it clear when the prime minister will physically step down.
Questions from journalists hearing his speech as to whether or not President Marcelo would be dissolving parliament were met with the equivalent of “I don’t know”. This is almost certainly because President Marcelo himself will now need to address the nation.
Commenators will now be discussing ‘how long a resigning prime minister can stay in office’/ ‘what might happen next’.
Political pundit Ana Gomes has already posted: “Elections. Obviously. In January”.
What this means in terms of the immediate future of the country (the State Budget, due to be voted on at the end of the month; negotiations with doctors, nurses, teachers – all of which are at varying stages of impasse; the crisis in the health system – and a great deal more) is unclear. Both main parties (PS and PSD) are due to meet with President Marcelo tomorrow, ostensibly to discuss the 2024 State Budget, but clearly these new questions will be ‘on the table’, with the president making his decisions thereafter.
UPDATE: President Marcelo will be meeting with all parties tomorrow, specifically on the subject of ‘what now?’. Marcelo has convened a Council of State for Thursday afternoon, and will ‘address the nation’, once the meeting has concluded. ND