Sócrates will lead the way

news: Sócrates will lead the way

By Chris Graeme

THE SOCIALIST Party (PS) won a record absolute majority, sweeping José Sócrates to power.

The opposition PS defeated the conservative Social Democrats Party (PSD) government by a landslide victory giving them 45.05 per cent of the total vote and 120 deputies in the 230-seat parliament for the first time.

PSD leader, Pedro Santana Lopes, whose government was effectively dismissed by the country’s President Jorge Sampaio for incompetence, is now fighting for his political life within his party. It was the worst defeat for the PSD in the past 20 years.

Pedro Santana Lopes had only been Prime Minister for four months, and his party’s leader for seven months, when the president dissolved parliament in December, following a series of political fiascos and mismanagement. However, there are those who believe that the instability started when the existing PSD Prime Minister, José Manuel Durão Barroso, quit his post to head the European Commission.

‘New life’ for Portugal’s economy

José Sócrates, a former environment minister in the last António Guterres Socialist government four years ago, has promised to breathe new life into Portugal’s ailing economy as EU subsidies plummet and foreign investment flies to Eastern Europe.

Productivity and competitiveness is poor, unemployment is soaring at seven per cent and the state budget has been called into question by European Union commissioners as the country struggles to keep within the three per cent GNP spending limit for the EU’s Growth and Stability Pact.

Sócrates reiterated his promise to create 15,000 jobs for young university graduates as well as instigating economic reforms and dealing with the country’s failure to collect enough taxes.

The new Prime Minister has also promised to slash the size of the ballooning and costly civil service bureaucracy, which employs an estimated eight per cent (800,000) of the total Portuguese population of 10 million.

“We’ve done it!”

Speaking to The Resident, various prominent members of the Socialist Party were in a jubilant mood last Sunday as the Socialists realised they had gained the majority by 9pm.

Former socialist Lisbon Câmara President, João Soares, said he was “very happy” and that, as far as stability and responsibility were concerned, “the overall majority was very important for a country that is in a very difficult situation due to the misconduct of the PSD.”

Former Socialist Party leader, Ferro Rodrigues, told us that it was a “wonderful victory for the PS and the country. With such a clear majority it was a clear sign that the Portuguese people had had enough of three years of political incompetence and were ready for change”.

Lena Roseta, Parliamentary Deputy and President of the National Board of Architects, told The Resident that she believed José Sócrates has what it takes “to instigate the economic and political reforms necessary to bring Portugal out of economic crisis”.

Jaime Gama, a former PS government Defence Minister, said that, this time, the Socialists would make a difference given its majority. “There is the will for change and there will be new policies in many areas. This victory clearly shows the hopes, expectations and will of the Portuguese people,” he added.

José Socrates appeared before the assembled press shortly before midnight, after Pedro Santana Lopes (PSD), Jerónimo de Sousa (PCP), Francisco Louçã (Bloco de Esquerda) and Paulo Portas (CDU/PP) had all spoken to the nation.

“We’ve done it! We’ve done it!” he shouted waving his thumb in the air and immediately went on to attack a campaign full of “personal attacks and insults”.

Referring to the fact that the number of people who failed to vote (35 per cent) had fallen, he said: “I say this is not the majority of rejection. It is the majority of an affirmation. Tonight an old myth has been sent packing. It’s the idea that only the right-wing can win an absolute majority and I’ve never subscribed to that idea.”

He went on to say that he viewed the results “without any sense of triumphalism or arrogance, but rather with humility and a sense of responsibility. An absolute majority means we can be more forceful and motivated and I promise we will govern on behalf of all and for all”.

José Sócrates concluded by saying that he was “counting on the Portuguese people to fight pessimism”, adding that these were “new times of hope to modernise the country and fight poverty”.

The PSD gained 28.7 per cent of the vote (72 deputies), the CDU got 7.6 per cent (14 deputies), the PP 7.3 per cent (12 deputies) and the BE 6.4 per cent (8 deputies).