Jorge Moreira da Silva (left), Luís Montenegro (right)

PSD opposition chooses new leader this weekend

Candidates Jorge Moreira da Silva and Luís Montenegro have not had one ‘face-to-face’

Saturday sees the PSD opposition vote for a new leader – months after outgoing Rui Rio admitted responsibility for the party’s abysmal performance in January’s legislative elections.

The truth is few people (outside of the party) will be interested in this internal process: the PSD has plummeted to depths in terms of popularity and/ or relevance unseen for decades; whoever wins is unlikely to have even a chance at taking power until 2026 and the candidates have managed not to come together for even one televised debate.

But as president Marcelo has been at pains to point out, a healthy democracy requires a robust opposition.

Looking at the situation from Marcelo’s viewpoint, the whole country should be interested in who emerges as PSD leader on Saturday. Thus, SIC television news has given the candidates a brief appraisal:

Jorge Moreira da Silva, 51, is an electrotechnical engineer, running for the leadership for the first time. He has been an MP in the past, a euro MP, a government minister (where in charge of environment he pulled out all stops to evict fishing communities from Algarve barrier islands and concede oil and gas drilling licences throughout national territory).

Luís Montenegro, 49, is a lawyer running for the leadership for the second time (having lost against Mr Rio in 2020). He was an MP for 16 years, six of them as parliamentary leader. Expresso recently said of him that he doesn’t just want to be leader of the PSD party, he wants to be prime minister – and is prepared to get there with the support of “all the non-Socialist family”.

This ambition has been taken by Jorge Moreira da Silva to mean  Montenegro would countenance some kind of alliance with Chega (the country’s ‘third political force’ and fairly universally loathed by other parties in parliament).

As such, Moreira da Silva has already drawn a line in the sand: a PSD under his leadership will have no truck with Chega, which he obliquely referred to as ‘racist, xenophobic and populist’.

Luís Montenegro has not drawn any line in the sand – and the two have appeared to bicker a great deal about ‘diary dates’ and the fact that there has not been any televised debate to ‘help party members’ in their decision-making.

According to SIC, the vast majority of PSD district presidents support Luís Montenegro, as well as the current and former regional presidents of Madeira – both extremely outspoken men with remarkable understanding of the meaning of the word ‘opposition’.

Jorge Moreira da Silva, on the other hand, is supported by what could be described as PSD ‘dinosaurs’: former Portuguese prime minister and former president of the party, media mogul Francisco Pinto Balsemão (a founder of both SIC television and Expresso, a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group and State counsellor), former PSD finance minister Manuela Ferreira Leite and former minister for regional development Miguel Poiares Maduro – the man who coordinated the failed challenge to the leadership recently by Euro MP Paulo Rangel.

Curiously (perhaps) Paulo Rangel and Lisbon’s PSD mayor Carlos Moedas have refused to show their preferences for the leadership, while SIC hasn’t even touched on who Rui Rio is supporting.

As voting day approaches, Jorge Moreira da Silva (who left his post as director for development and cooperation at the OECD overnight after a six-year tenure to fight this leadership contest) has said the party will “become smaller” if it chooses Luís Montenegro.

“Dr Montenegro has a more parliamentary, communicative profile. Mine is associated to strategic reflection and then to the management of people, of projects, financial envelopes of large dimension, the leadership of reforms and the delivery of results”, he tells Rádio Renascença.

Indeed there are quite a few stories circulating today citing Mr Moreira’s feelings about the perceived shortcomings of Luís Montenegro, while the man himself insists he wants to be seen as the ‘successor to Passos Coelho’ (the last PSD leader to be prime minister). Even that comment has seen Mr Moreira da Silva insist he DOESN’T want to be seen as the successor to Passos Coelho”…

Saturday will tell who the party faithful puts their trust in.

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