Portuguese Crisis: Early elections issue divides negotiators
Caracas, Thursday, July 18, 2013. As time runs short for negotiations between the Portuguese governing coalition (PSD/CDS-PP) and the Socialist Party (PS), a “National Salvation” plan is not in sight yet. President Aníbal Cavaco Silva (PSD) has warned those who sabotaged attempts to reach an agreement but named none. Ex President Mário Soares (PS) stated that if António Jose Seguro agreed to a deal with the current right-wing-coalition, there would be a serious split in the Socialist party. Another historical PS leader, Manuel Alegre, had already stated that Seguro promised there would not be a deal.
The issue of early elections continues to divide negotiators of the "National Salvation" plan proposed by President Cavaco Silva for this critical hour in Portuguese history; Cavaco Silva had proposed early elections after June 2014 or the completion of the austerity plan designed by Troika (IMF, European Commission and the European Central Bank). Keeping its grasp of power, the governing coalition would not like to call elections at all; they would only add uncertainty to the current crisis. But, the opposition Socialist party would like to call them as soon as possible, that is, before economic conditions deteriorate further and make it impossible to change austerity policies. Such political logic and economic conditions continue to undermine efforts to reach agreement at the negotiation table. In this context, a transitory presidential-led-government might appear as a most convenient solution to both negotiating parties. Neither one of them would be responsible for economic recession. The reformed Portuguese Constitution (1982) no longer allows a Presidential-led-government though.
Today, the Portuguese governing coalition defeated a No-Confidence-motion submitted by the Green Party at Parliament. For the fifth time since 2011, the administration of Passos Coelho confronted such kind of motion in Parliament. Backed by its parliamentary majority, it easily defeated the initiative but at a cost. First, the Green Party led by Heloisa Apolónia seized the opportunity to criticize the continuation of austerity measures and the lack of both economic growth and employment; Apolónia also stated current government lacked legitimacy and popular support to govern. This could proved true if early elections were call soon. Second and despite current negotiation, the governing coalition did not secure the backing of other parties in Parliament. In fact, the Socialist Party backed the no confidence motion against the government. However, it also scorned the left wing parties (Verdes, PCP and BE) for helping the governing coalition appear as victorious in Parliament.
Claiming victory over the no confidence motion, Premier Passos Coelho confirmed in Parliament his renewed intention to submit the appointment of Paulo Portas as Deputy Prime Minister for Presidential approval. In reaction, Carlos Zorrinho -leader of the Socialist Party in Parliament - condemned the governing coalition for attempting to undermine the current presidential initiative.
Passos Coelho´s insistence in the appointment of Portas, signals again the state of little progress in the negotiations of a National Salvation plan. Yesterday, July 17, 2013, the PS objected the unwillingness of the governing coalition to discuss cuts of public spending for 4.7 million Euros. The Plan -termed as State Reform- is considered of paramount importance by the governing coalition to complete Portuguese international commitments and increase foreign investments. The PS is against the cuts as it would cause unemployment.