Bloco de Esquerda and its coordinator Catarina Martins (right) suddenly in the driving seat...

State Budget impasse: Left wingers want written agreement, government ‘plays ball’

The continuing ‘impasse’ over acceptance of the next State Budget (OE 2022) continues to fill column inches, with left-wingers Bloco de Esquerda this week suddenly ‘in the driving seat’.

Only a couple of weeks ago, pundits were predicting a fairly smooth sail through parliament of this latest spending plan – an anodyne document that plays lip service to so many critical issues and “will do nothing towards creating wealth in Portugal” (this being the criticism of television commentator Luís Marques Mendes).

The reason is that a veto would be much worse than any lukewarm budget. It would force early elections, halt meaningful decision-making and set the country adrift just as it is meant to be powering out of a crisis.

Yet ‘out of the blue’ long-term allies when it comes to this level of voting, the PCP communists, have said they won’t accept the proposed budget. Thus the minority government is flailing about looking for replacement allies.

Enter Bloco de Esquerda, the left wing party that recently did appallingly badly in the municipal elections.

BE could do with some positive exposure: saving the State Budget might be just the ticket.

So this week focus is on ‘decisive conversations to unblock the impasse’, explain reports.

BE is being solicited by the government for “the terms” it requires for a written agreement. 

This sounds perhaps a little more promising than it is. 

BE has already responded tartly saying: “The only new detail in the last two days is that a further two days have passed without the government replying in any relevant way to the nine negotiational points proposed by the Bloco de Esquerda at the beginning of September…”

These points are demands that the government has already rejected in the past, and clearly had no interest in entertaining for this budget, but which BE considers crucial for economic and social recovery, “nothing more, nothing less”.

And so we have the ‘cliffhanger’ of the week. 

The first voting on the OE 2022 is due on October 27 – and without a green light, President Marcelo has already admitted, the only course will be early elections – a pointless waste of time bearing in mind the likelihood that the PS would simply be returned to power, without a working majority.

Perhaps the biggest question is ‘is this all unnecessary drama’, or is it a true indication of the political quagmire that Portugal has managed to collapse into? Only the next few days will tell…

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