Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s announcement that the PSD may well consider an alliance with the Socialists after the 2015 general elections has left his party’s coalition partners in a state of high dudgeon.
According to weekly newspaper SOL, CDS party members feel they have been “publicly humiliated” by the PM – while their leader Paulo Portas is not only reported to be “perplexed and irritated”, he is making every effort to dodge the press and hopes to stay ‘out of the public eye’ until the final days of the current campaign for the European elections.
SOL adds that the upset has prompted CDS chiefs to “seriously consider the advantages and disadvantages” of staying aligned to the PSD in the run up to next year’s elections.
Sources have told the paper that Paulo Portas “will never go back to form a Government with Passos Coelho” – and there are even those who intimate that this may be the end of Portas as CDS leader full stop.
For the time being however, Portas is said to be staying out of sight “in order to avoid a new political crisis” within the government.
Only last year Portas was at the centre of a major political upset that almost toppled the government. Fancy footwork behind the scenes – promoting him to deputy PM – saved the day, but not, it would appear, without a hefty dollop of political fallout.
Now, says SOL, Portas and Passos will “continue to make isolated appearances” as much as possible, only coming together for a closing ceremony of the electoral campaign to be held in Porto.
Passos Coelho dropped his “potential PS alliance” bombshell last Friday, in an interview with Expresso newspaper.
He explained that “the PSD has been in government alone, with the PS and with the CDS/PP” but stressed that “the country must be governed with the greatest stability possible”.
Political commentators seized on the declaration, translating it as meaning that the PSD would consider all forms of alliance – “whether with the PS, the CDS, or even both”, wrote SOL.
May 25 elections – What the parties ‘promise’ for Europe
As coalition discontent rumbles through parliamentary corridors, the European election campaign enters its final phase, with parties scrambling to promote their manifestos.
In a nutshell, these are as follows:
The PSD/CDS-PP ‘Aliança Portugal’ is pushing for institutional reform of the Economic and Monetary Union. With social democrat Paulo Rangel as the main candidate, the parties of the government are insisting on a ‘Big Brother’ form of banking union backed by a European guarantee for all deposits.
In all, the Alliance is fielding nine candidates as Euro MPs.
In the last European elections, PSD and CDS ran separately, the PSD with eight candidates and the CDS with two.
Meantime, the PS (Partido Socialista) is campaigning for “a new way of being in Europe” and calling for “employment and growth” as well as “a stronger voice for Portugal within the EU”. The party is fielding seven candidates and its electioneering led by Francisco Assis is stridently anti-government.
The PND (Partido Nacional Democrático) led by Eduardo Welsh is against the EU and in favour of a European Community.
Partido da Terra (MPT), the Earth Party, is also anti-EU as such and more in favour of what it calls the founding purity of the union.
MAS, the Alternative Socialist Movement, wants a referendum on the Euro.
PAN, the Party for Animals and Nature – wants a complete restructuring of Europe, along with the banning of all spectacles involving animals.
POUS, the Socialist Workers’ Union, wants to scrap the European Union altogether, as it seeks to “prolong the chaos and disorder caused by the survival of the Capitalist system”, while the BE (Bloco de Esquerda) is calling for restructuring of debt for peripheral economies.
Of the heavyweights in the contest, the CDU (the Union of Communists, the Green Party and the Association for Democratic Intervention) is calling for an “immediate end to the programme of the troika” and the “recognition that Portugal’s public debt is unsustainable”.
But how much these manifestos will ‘grab’ the voting public’s attention is anyone’s guess… A poll taken less than 10 days ago suggested 62% of Europe’s voters were not in the least bit interested in taking part and it has to be remembered that in the last European elections in 2009 Portugal’s own abstention rate was 63%.
While politicians of all sorts try to win support, the Government spin machine is working overtime with Minister of the Economy Pires de Lima, now hailing the recent fall in GDP as a triumph when viewed from a European perspective.
INE statistics show that GDP fell 0.7% when compared to figures for the last quarter, but Pires de Lima told journalists that the drop still signified an increase, when considering GDP levels elsewhere in Europe.
Portugal effectively registered a 1.2% growth in GDP in the first quarter of 2014, against a European average of 0.9%.
“Portugal is in a phase of consistent turning,” said Pires de Lima, “but it is gradual.”
Troika: the long goodbye
Gradual, too, is Portugal’s “long goodbye” to the troika. Despite the country’s “clean exit” from the bailout programme last Friday, the truth is that the Troika will be here for many more years to come.
Post-programme supervision will be led by the IMF and takes place twice yearly until at least 2030.
The bottom line is that Portugal will stay under supervision until it has repaid €21.97 billion of the 24.26 billion that it received from the IMF as part of the original bailout.
The IMF’s “monitoring missions” will be organised to “guarantee the country’s economic viability” and tackle economic wobbles head-on by “recommending political actions”.
In other words, it’s business as usual with Portugal still answerable to the men in dark suits from Brussels.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]