WHEN THE American Club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1997, a number of commemorative events were held. At that time, a Lifetime Membership Award was created and bestowed on Dr. Mário Soares – to date the only person honoured with the award.
Speaking for the 10th time as guest of honour, the reasons were recalled for the award. Soares has long been a friend of the American Club and of the United States. As a Portuguese leader, he contributed invaluably in strengthening ties between the two nations and, in the best American tradition, dedicated his life to the principles of democracy, justice and dignity. Mário Soares was described by the American Club as an outstanding leader, statesman and amigo, reports The Resident’s Chris Graeme.
Dr. Soares began his speech by outlining why he had decided to run for President: “If the economic and financial crisis gets worse, it could develop into political crisis and social conflict, which need to be averted.”
“I understand that presidential powers are limited but are important. A President doesn’t have governmental power and doesn’t rule, but acts as moderator,” he said. “The President simply cannot interfere in government questions but can be a referee and can be the eyes and ears of the Portuguese people. A President can give a voice to the people and, therefore, mobilise national energies.”
Soares said there was no need to lose faith in Portugal, which had nine centuries of history and strong national identity: “We have already had serious crises in the past. For example, a revolution that was considered by most historians a great success because it totally transformed the country and no blood was shed.”
He continued: “Carrying out one’s duties with impartiality and good common sense is a virtue in politics, transmitting to the Portuguese that they shouldn’t have complexes, that each has his/her place in the world. So, my main objective is to unify the Portuguese and help create political stability in the country.”
“The government rules, parliament legislates, the law courts administer justice, and it is fundamental that this all runs smoothly. The President is the guarantor of the smooth running of a state and it is this that I intend to do,” he added. “On the other hand, the President must try and avert great social conflicts with common sense and consensus. One needs to know how to talk to all people, rich and poor, artists and intellectuals.”
The President also has a vital role to play in defending and projecting the country’s image and interests abroad. “I have returned for the future. I am not here to reinvoke the past when I was Prime Minister,” he said.
He outlined the various candidates, focusing on two. About Manuel Alegre, Soares said he was a utopian and poetic candidate who hadn’t shown “much substance” in his speeches. But Soares’ real adversary is PSD supported candidate, Cavaco Silva. “I’ve got nothing against him, we enjoy cordial relations, but we’re different. He continues to speak as if he were the former Prime Minister, but doesn’t understand that the constitution hasn’t endowed the President with powers to sort out unemployment, health or justice matters,” he said. “If he tries to modify the role of the President by acting as a secondary Prime Minister, we’re going to end up with a serious constitutional and social conflict, which will be extremely worrying for whoever is leading the country.”
Portugal is an important member of the EU and a country with strong Atlantic and Mediterranean links. He said that Portugal’s special relationship with Brazil must be maintained and argued that immigrants, especially those from former Portuguese colonies, should not be treated as third class citizens. “We have a responsibility to those who come here as immigrants because they contribute towards our wealth and we need them as citizens, not slaves,” he concluded.