By CHRIS GRAEME
PORTUGUESE PRESIDENT Cavaco Silva is concerned at the prevailing political apathy among young people today in Portugal.
His worries are supported by a study into the attitudes of young people towards politics in the country. The conclusions of that study showed that the Portuguese in general, and youth in particular, don’t believe that democracy is working in Portugal. The study also revealed that the Portuguese have little faith in their democratically elected leaders.
In one of his two annual addresses to the Portuguese people on the 34th anniversary of the April 25 Revolution, which saw democracy implanted in Portugal in 1974, the President said that despite young people recognising the necessity of profound social and economic reforms, the vast majority were “pessimistic” and “dissatisfied”.
Both the government and parliament have long been concerned about a pervading sense of political apathy among young people with parliament launching an interactive website about the workings of the Assembleia da República, including interviews with all the deputies. This can be found at www.parlamento.pt.
Even more worrying is the fact that the country’s top military brass, who in 1974 were in the vanguard of the Revolution, are also pessimistic with the democratic process as it has developed in Portugal.
Five generals and one colonel have all spoken out publicly on the “degradation of democratic institutions” nationwide. Two generals, Garcia Leandro and Rocha Vieira, have said in recent days that the time of crisis that Portugal is undergoing seemed to be “ignoring the independence of the past and heralded a future without liberties”.
Another general, Garcia Leandro, went one step further and accused the government and Portuguese democracy and politicians of falling into the kind of political abyss not seen since the end of the monarchy in 1910 and the failure of the first Republic in 1928. “We simply want a multi-party, pluralist democracy that functions within the law, if Portugal was a boat, it would have completely hit the rocks,” he added.
Alfredo Assunção, who 34 years ago stood alongside Revolutionary hero Salgueiro Maia in Terreiro do Paço, said that if it weren’t for the fact that Portugal was a member of the European Union, the present social unrest and dissatisfaction was capable of taking “a violent turn”.
Vasco Lourenço warned that political parties and their members had to get back to the essence of why they had been voted in to serve the public and could not continue to be self-serving “jobs for the boys” agencies embroiled in corruption and swindles.
Prime Minister José Sócrates said he totally agreed with the President of the Republic’s concerns and said he would do all that he could “to reach and involve young people”.
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