Operation Tutti-Frutti ‘returns with avengence’
Wednesday afternoon in parliament positively bristled with controversy following revelations the day before by TVI/ CNN Portugal alluding to a secret pact between PS Socialists and PSD social democrats for each party to keep the leadership of certain Lisbon parishes in the local elections of 2017.
Wiretaps and emails leaked from the wider (and long-running) Tutti Frutti investigation revealed an alleged strategy involving “putting up shitty candidates” in certain areas, to guarantee the political status quo.
TVI/ CNN’s reports did nothing to calm the simmering distrust in Portugal’s political leadership. In the wider context, they returned to the fact that finance minister Fernando Medina (in 2017 Mayor of Lisbon) and Duarte Cordeiro (also then a councillor, but now minister of the environment) are both involved in Tutti Frutti.
Beyond the secret pact, Medina is suspected of having allowed an IMI exemption at the request of the then president of Benfica, Luís Filipe Vieira, and of having hired an advisor paid by Lisbon City Council to help him in comments made in a personal capacity. Both men have consistently stressed that suspicions attributed to them are without grounds. But it isn’t a ‘good look’ for a government already deeply under-fire.
Yesterday’s focus in parliament returned to the parliamentary commission of inquiry into management decisions at TAP airline – particularly in terms of the PM’s involvement, or otherwise, into the involvement of SIS (Portugal’s secret services, which are meant to be independent of government, and not involved in the investigation of crimes) to recover a computer, which the government insists was ‘stolen’ after a bizarre punch-up at the ministry of infrastructures.
Opposition party bids to call the prime minister to give evidence on his part in this episode were all rejected (by the PS absolute majority).
Say reports: “The question was made various times, in various ways by various MPs, but António Costa always refused to answer”.
Last night, political commentators were being quizzed for their opinions on the heated exchanges, suggesting “there is something the PM is hiding”… possibly “some conversation with a member of the government, be it the deputy secretary of State (Mendonça Mendes), someone else, or directly with SIS, with SIRP (SIS’ parent body)”, because if such a conversation exists, it would suggest the PM was not entirely truthful when he told reporters in April that no-one in government had been involved in bringing SIS into the picture.
For lay readers, this may all sound like an irrelevant storm in a political teacup (which in many aspects it is), but it puts the government’s handling of matters into further distrust – reinforcing the perceived “weakening of institutions” that should operate independently of political power/ influence.