Prime Minister resigns

news: Prime Minister resigns

SANTANA LOPES has announced the resignation of his government following an extraordinary meeting of the Ministers’ Council. The Prime Minister announced his decision following a speech made by the President of the Republic, Jorge Sampaio, in which his government was described as “lacking credibility”. The President also warned that the government had “limited political competence”.

Bitterness and criticism

The Prime Minister criticised the President’s decision to dissolve parliament and pointed out that he didn’t find his behaviour on several issues in keeping with that of a President. Lopes implied that the actions of the President did not promote “institutional harmony and serenity within the government”.

The Prime Minister pointed to the occasion when a meeting of economists was called at the President’s residence at which time the state budget was criticised. He also mentioned the contradicting views on matters of health and the call to the presidential palace of a commentator from a private television station over his dismissal. Lopes added that he was sure that Jorge Sampaio would prefer the details of such episodes “not to be mentioned”.

President accused of

political bias

Santana Lopes also threw out the excuse from Sampaio that too many ministers were seeking to resign from the current government (a claim made when the Sports Minister resigned after just four days). The Prime Minister hinted at political bias from Sampaio, pointing out that many of the ministers from António Guterres’ Socialist government had also resigned, but that no action was taken to dissolve parliament at that time.

The timing of the decision was also lambasted by Santana Lopes, who commented: “When all the indicators point to a poor economic situation and a lack of control of public accounts, why provoke even further instability now?” He also pointed out that Portugal seemed From page 1

to be going through a lot of governments, noting that Spain has had four governments in 21 years, while Portugal has reached a total of 16 within the same period.

Change of heart

It has now come to light that the first reaction from Santana Lopes on being told of the President’s decision was to leave the government, giving the powers of Prime Minister to his deputy, Álvaro Barreto. It was only after talks with his Minister for Defence, Paulo Portas, and Minister of State, Nuno Morais Sarmento, that he decided to resign as Prime Minister and take the whole government with him. The coalition between the PSD and CDS-PP also faces an uncertain future and at present there is no commitment of a continued partnership going into the elections that are scheduled for February 20.

Present government no longer has any real power

On Monday, December 13, Santana Lopes went to Belém to make the resignation official and the President accepted. This now means that the government is in place only to maintain the day-to-day affairs of the country and cannot produce any laws that can significantly change or have any impact on future politics. It is not the first time though that Portugal has lived with a “governo de gestão”, (a caretaker government), and probably not the last, since this is quite a normal state of affairs under the country’s constitutional set up.

Reactions to the news

Further reactions include the PP-CDS leader, Paulo Portas, who accused Sampaio of being lobbied by the financial sector (banks) as they were unhappy with the government’s policies. The comments were later said to be “untrue and uninformed” by João Salgueiro, President of the Banks’ Syndicate. He told the media that the banks “never opposed the budget” and no pressure was put on the President by any of the financial institutions.

Condemnation from the opposition

All the opposition parties condemned the speech from Santana Lopes in which he criticised the President, describing it as a “political manoeuvre” made with a view to the forthcoming elections.