Tough-talking ceremony sees Portugal’s Socialist government sworn in under heavy cloud

Portugal’s new Socialist government – the first executive to seize power after it had effectively lost at the polling booths – continued to make history yesterday, with the most sombre inauguration of all time.

President of the Republic Cavaco Silva showed, without a shadow of doubt, that he has serious reservations over the executive under António Costa, and that he will do everything left open to him under the terms of the nation’s Constitution to ensure the country remains on what he termed “the current trajectory of economic growth, job creation and the preservation of external credibility”.

Leader writers explained afterwards that it was a threat that showed that although the president is not empowered to dissolve parliament, he can refuse to pass legislation, veto policies and sack the government if he pleases.

It was as tough a message a government could get in a democracy.

Tabloid director Armando Esteves Pereira commented: “With this threat, Cavaco says, prohibited from using the atomic bomb, he has neutron bombs that are just as lethal.”

The “distrust of the President in relation to the new executive, and specially to the fragility of the agreements signed between the PS, Bloco de Esquerda, PCP and PEV (Green Party), contrasted flagrantly with the praises (Cavaco had) for the outgoing prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho who was present at the ceremony”, wrote Correio da Manhã.

António Costa’s ‘moment’ was thus put under a heavy cloud which he sought to dissipate by saying that now was not the moment “to pour salt into wounds but to heal them”.

Costa reiterated his government’s commitment to the EU, the eurozone, the CPLP (community of Portuguese-speaking countries) and NATO and was photographed afterwards congratulating both former PM Pedro Passos Coelho and his deputy Paulo Portas on their “dedication and effort during such a critical period” in Portugal’s history.

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