Santana returns to Lisbon Câmara

news: Santana returns to Lisbon Câmara

PEDRO Santana Lopes has returned to the presidency of Lisbon Câmara. His silence in the run-up to last Saturday’s formal swearing-in of new Prime Minister José Sócrates effectively sealed his resumption of duties.

There was only a terse comment from the former Prime Minister’s office on Monday, following a meeting with Carmona Rodrigues, confirming that he was returning to the presidency by “proper right”. Rodrigues released a short statement saying he regarded Santana Lopes’ return as the resumption of “normality”. It is understood that Rodrigues will now be vice president, but that Santana Lopes may redistribute competences at the câmara as he is fully entitled to do. Santana’s return triggered criticism from other political parties. The Bloco de Esquerda (BE) said the workings of the câmara had been virtually suspended by the atmosphere of uncertainty. “If something important had happened in Lisbon on Sunday, nobody would have had the authority to make decisions,” said Carlos Marques, leader of the BE’s municipal grouping.

The explanation for Santana Lopes’ return hinges on a constitutional point. If he had not intended to go back to the câmara, he should have written a letter to the Municipal Assembly before Sócrates assumed power. As it was, last Saturday’s ceremony marked, in effect, the end of Carmona Rodrigues’s reign. A curious anomaly is that Santana Lopes never officially resigned from his duties at the câmara once he became Prime Minister last July. His new status as Prime Minister was simply ‘incompatible’ with his former office, but he never formally renounced the post to which he was elected in 2001.

Jorge Bacelar Gouveia, a specialist in constitutional law from Lisbon’s Universidade Nova, insisted that Santana Lopes was entitled to withhold a lengthy statement on the subject. “He did not have to make any declaration because the resumption of his presidency of Lisbon Câmara was automatic once he ceased being Prime Minister,” he explained.