“It doesn’t govern”; “seems tired”; there’s a whiff of “party’s over” in the air
Absolute majorities aren’t meant to be like this. Today in parliament was not a pleasant one for prime minister António Costa. His PS government faced a ‘motion of censure’ that had no hope of passing, but that doesn’t mean any of the Opposition parties actually support the executive. They don’t. They simply didn’t want to sign up to an initiative promoted by CHEGA (a party dismissed universally as too right wing).
The centre-right PSD gave its first intervention since new leader Luís Montenegro took control, and it saw Paulo Rios de Oliveira say the government actually DOES deserve censure, “because it doesn’t govern”.
“At the end of seven years, Portugal has become impoverished by the joy and optimism of the Socialists, and we continue to fall behind and become the tail of Europe. The Portuguese are living worse”, he said.
The PS asked for an absolute majority – and it “had the bad luck to get one”, he quipped – because beyond having to continue to govern, it is now solely responsible for the destiny of the country. There are no longer any excuses. “Careful of what you wish for, because it can happen”.
The executive cannot blame any decision on anyone but themselves now. “The PS really has to decide, study and act. It really has to govern”, he said, repeating that it isn’t.
Rios de Oliveira outlined all the areas devoid of ‘government’: “the chaos at the airports, in SEF, in casualty units, in the health service, with GPs, with SIRESP (the emergency telecoms network), with fuel, crèches that they promised would be free, with education, requests for retirement that are never answered, with TAP – even with the PRR (Plan for Recovery and Resilience) which is being barely monitored and where time limits are relentlessly sliding towards non-compliance”.
The government does not govern, he repeated. And at the end of five months of the new executive there is the whiff of “the end of a party”. The opposition is just there to watch “a government without action”.
This was one of the least comfortable interventions in an afternoon full of recriminations and criticism. The eerie part of it all was that speakers were frequently critical of the same things, irrespective of which party they represented.
João Cotrim de Figueiredo of Iniciativa Liberal seemed to echo Paulo Rios de Oliveira when he said: “The prime minister is the most censurable of all because he should be the first person responsible, and he isn’t; because he should have a hand on his government, and he doesn’t (…) more than that he seems to watch over the impressive daily degradation of services to the public in Portugal as if none of it had anything to do with him”.
But all were agreed: there was no point voting for CHEGA’s motion: not only was it bound to fall, it was conceived to ‘pick a fight’ with the centre-right, rather than to change anything.