Sócrates names his team

news: Sócrates names his team

PORTUGAL’s new Prime Minister-elect, José Sócrates, has unveiled his government following his Socialist Party’s (PS) victory in the recent election. President Sampaio is expected to swear in the new government tomorrow (March 12).

Sócrates nominated 16 ministers to his cabinet, the smallest government since Cavaco Silva won re-election in 1991, and one less than that of outgoing Prime Minister, Pedro Santana Lopes. Half of Sócrates’ team are independents – the others are members of the Socialist Party, seven of whom served under former Socialist Prime Minister, António Guterres.

Sócrates was bullish about his new team. “This is a government of competent and capable people, which will be able to restore confidence in our democratic institutions, the economy and our country,” he told reporters. Political analyst, Carlos Magno, said the far-left had been isolated and described it as “a cohesive, strong and small government of the centre”.

Bush critic becomes Foreign Minister

The most controversial appointment was that of Diogo Freitas do Amaral, the founder of the right-wing CDS-PP party and president of the UN General Assembly in the 1990s. Freitas do Amaral, 63, stood against Mário Soares in a bitterly fought presidential campaign in 1986 and has served as Foreign and Defence Minister in past centre-right governments. But his surprise appointment triggered widespread criticism.

He was a vociferous opponent of the war in Iraq and has even compared the behaviour of American President George W. Bush to that of a fascist dictator. The CDS-PP described their former leader as a “dangerous presence” in the new government, saying his “anti-US doctrine” would jeopardise Portugal’s traditional close relations with Washington. TV commentator, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, also criticised the appointment, saying that Freitas do Amaral, now effectively the second-in-command after Sócrates, lacked the appropriate skills for the position.

Conspicuous by his absence was António Vitorino, the ex-European Commissioner whom the press had dubbed a near certainty for inclusion in the government. It later emerged that Vitorino, a former Defence Minister in the Guterres government, had declined the offer of a post because he said he did not find his previous stint in government congenial. But some commentators believe that he is preparing to run against Cavaco Silva in next year’s presidential elections. Polls have indicated that ex-Socialist Prime Minister, António Guterres, would stand little chance in a race against Cavaco Silva.

New Finance Minister is a ‘moderate’

José Sócrates turned to technocrats for the posts of Finance and Economy Ministers. He named Luís Campos e Cunha, the former deputy head of the Central Bank and the current dean of the School of Economics at Lisbon’s New University, as the new Finance Minister. Campos e Cunha, who was one of the key strategists behind the party’s election manifesto, is perceived as a fiscal conservative.

Sócrates also defied expectations by giving women only two portfolios in the new government – Education and Culture, represented by Maria De Lurdes Rodrigues and Isabel Pires de Lima respectively.

Freitas do Amaral and Campos e Cunha were also named two of three state ministers, a sign of their importance in the new cabinet. The third state minister is António Costa, a former Justice Minister, who has been named as the new Minister for Internal Affairs. The new Defence Minister, the successor to Paulo Portas, is Luís Amado, an ex-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation who is also perceived to be a moderate. Minister of Justice is Alberto Costa, an ex-Minister of Internal Affairs.

Other key posts

Minister for the Environment and Regional Development – Francisco Nunes Correia.

Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries – Jaime Silva

Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education – Mariano Gago

Minister for the Presidency – Pedro Silva Pereira

Minister for Health – António Correia De Campos

Minister for Work and Social Solidarity – José Vieira da Silva

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs – Augusto Santos Silva