Sweet victory!

news: Sweet victory!

CENTRE RIGHT Social Democratic Party (PSD) has taken the country’s most crucial seat – Lisbon – in the 2005 local council elections. It means that its front running independent candidate, António Carmona Rodrigues, is now President of Lisbon Câmara, Portugal’s capital of three million inhabitants.

Carmona Rodrigues, who was favourite to win, beat his Socialist (PS) rival Manuel Maria Carrilho (30.6 per cent) on election night last Sunday, with a 42 per cent lion’s share of the vote.

Fighting his campaign, marked by dignity and honesty, the former President and vice president of Lisbon Câmara will be mayor again for the next four years. His trump card during the hard fought election campaign was his commitment to regenerating the city’s poorer, run-down, urban areas, restoring the historic downtown centre and renovating thousands of buildings in serious disrepair.

During his party’s mandate in the past four years, Lisbon has seen breathtaking social and structural changes not seen since the ambitious building projects carried out in the 50s and 60s under Salazar. Among the projects PSD has overseen since 2001 is the controversial Marquês de Pombal tunnel, regeneration of the city’s drug-infested Intendente area, scores of new children’s playgrounds and markets at Ajuda and Ribeiro.

Plans in the pipeline include continued extension of Lisbon’s metro, regeneration of the city’s former theatre land Parque Mayer, a new fun fair at Chelas, new central library and restoration of the city’s parks and fountains. Carmona’s party has also confirmed its commitment to the elderly and students, improving housing and creating 5,000 new homes for young people to rent in the city.

One of his key pledges for the first six months is to revamp the city’s Liberdade neighbourhood in Campolide. On the business front, the new mayor has pledged to promote Lisbon as a competitive key European business capital, attracting foreign investment and fostering enterprise. He has also promised to simplify and step up bureaucratic and legal processes hampering businesses.

Taking the podium at 11pm last Sunday at the PSD’s election night headquarters, the Espaço Jovem on Avenida 24 de Julho, to the shouts of “Carmona, Amigo, Lisboa está contigo!” (Carmona, our friend, Lisbon is with you!), the new mayor said: “Lisbon has showed, in a clear way, who it wants to run the city for the next four years.”

Congratulating all the candidates, he said it was a well fought campaign by allhis rivals who had contributed to pushing to the fore the issues that concerned the city and its welfare in making it better. He also thanked outgoing PSD Mayor Pedro Santana Lopes and PSD leader Luís Marques Mendes, as well as the vast team who had helped him during the campaign, representing an enormous mass of people, including those in the national assembly, on the city council’s executive and the parish councils.

“Today, we are standing at the beginning of a new era. We have four years ahead of us and they will be, of course, four difficult ones, but we have come out of this lesson feeling more optimistic and upbeat,” he told 2,000 flag-waving supporters who crammed the building. “We have the force of our convictions but also the responsibility to see the job through.”

However, despite the victory, the campaign was dogged by serious mud-slinging and slanderous allegations between the two front-running candidates. In his campaign, opposition candidate Manuel Maria Carrilho had publicly accused the PSD of rudderless leadership, blowing millions of euros on propaganda and allowing the city to deteriorate and get into serious debt, while not addressing its chronic traffic problems.

Lisbon’s new Mayor


António Pedro de Nobre Carmona Rodrigues first gained the limelight in the council elections in 2001 when he became Pedro Santana Lopes’ deputy mayor.

Viewed as a modest and simple man of convictions, the 48-year-old engineer became Minister of Public Works under the PSD government of Manuel Durão Barroso the same year.

He returned to Lisbon Câmara in 2004 as mayor, when Pedro Santana Lopes took up the Prime Minister’s position left vacant with the departure of Durão Barroso to head the European Union Commission.

With the collapse of Santana Lopes’ administration last year, the former Prime Minister exercised his right to return to his old position as mayor of Lisbon, despite much criticism, and Carmona Rodrigues was forced to step down.

The newly elected mayor is married, with three children and lives in the São Miguel neighbourhood.

A qualified civil engineer, he was a professor at Lisbon’s Higher Technical Institute and is a specialist in environmental issues.

When he is not working hard for the city of Lisbon, he says he likes to spend a few days with his family at their holiday home at Praia Grande, Sintra.