President nominates Passos Coelho as PM

in News · 22-10-2015 13:46:00 · 0 Comments


President Cavaco Silva has nominated Pedro Passos Coelho as Portugal's next Prime Minister despite his party failing to obtain a parliamentary majority.

In a live televised address to the nation on Thursday evening, Cavaco Silva said that while he was aware that the PSD-CDS centre-right coalition might not be able to ensure political stability, the "alternative [a left-far left alliance] was clearly lacking in consistency."

The president further justified his decision in that an alliance between the Socialist, Communists and the Left Bloc would have "very serious" financial and economic consequences for the country which had just recently emerged from a three-year long bailout.

Cavaco Silva added that the leftist alliance, who together enjoy a majority in parliament, had to date failed to present a detailed programme of how they would govern if given the chance to do so.

Meanwhile, MPs will this Friday morning be taking their seats in Parliament for the 13th legislature since Portugal become a democracy 41 years ago, but several indicators suggest that the 14th legislative period is likely to be only a few months away.

In the wake of the elections, signs were that Cavaco Silva was set to follow tradition and nominate the party with the highest number of MPs to form a government, in this case, the centre-right PSD-CDS coalition.


But in the weeks which have followed since the split ballot, the Socialists and the coalition have failed to agree on much, as had been openly hoped for by the President. This has now resulted in the Socialists negotiating an unprecedented alliance with the Left Bloc and the Communist Party.


These three parties together have 123 seats in Parliament, 16 more than the coalition, and would be able to pass legislation without any opposition.


The Left Bloc leader Catarina Martins told Antenna 1 radio on Thursday that the party decided to join forces with the Socialists in order to stop them from forming an alliance with the PSD-CDS, which would have allowed Pedro Passos Coelho to add to his four years in charge as the country’s prime minister.

While the president has favoured a minority government, he will be fully aware that the leftist majority will bring down the coalition at the first opportunity.


Such an occasion will be presented to the opposition by no later than 4 November, the date on which the coalition will have to present their programme for the next four years of government, should they form a government.


Rejection of the government’s programme will see the ball tossed back in the court of the president.

He is currently fewer than three months away from completing the maximum two terms in office, meaning President Cavaco Silva will constitutionally be impeded to call early elections, as has happened in the past when a government has failed to enjoy the support of the majority of MPs.


With the fall of a hypothetical centre-right government, he will instead then be faced with the choice of either calling on Socialist leader António Costa to form a government, or hand the political hot potato to his successor, who will be elected in January.


The next president will however have little choice, but to call early elections. Once again, the constitution, in a bid to avoid a succession of elections, requires that a minimum of six months elapses between the start of a new parliamentary session and elections being called.


This will mean that the next President will only be able to announce a date for elections at the end of next April, with the earliest opening at his or her disposal being in June.


In the meantime, a minority cabinet will be reduced to performing ceremonial duties, and operate as a transitional government with very limited decision-making powers.

In the event of Passos Coelho’s cabinet being brought down and the president opts to hand over the country’s reigns to the leftists alliance, there will be some major policy shifts.


Agreement, appears to have been reached in three major areas.


The freezing of pensions will be lifted at a cost of one billion euros over the coming four years, civil servants will see their salary cuts revoked at a rate of 25 percent a quarter at a cost of 600 million euros, while also cancelling proposed cuts in the social security contributions and company tax rates, which in turn will pay for the increased expenditure on pensions and wages.


The Left Bloc and Communists have also called for stricter rules on sacking workers and are proposing the minimum wage be increased to 600 euros during the course of the current legislature, demands which the Socialists have shown an inclination towards accepting.


Less certainty surrounds how the generally moderate Socialists will deal with euro-scepticism of the far left, with both parties proposing a return to the escudo.


Despite assurances from the Socialists in recent days as to the continuation of the country in the euro, Portuguese Communist MEPs have this week been lobbying in Brussels for the EU to create a mechanism that will allow member states to obtain financing in order to facilitate their exit from the Union.

Given this stance and having defended the need for sacrifice since the Troika entered Portugal four years ago for the sake of stability on a European level, Cavaco Silva would not have raised too many eyebrows by nominating a minority government, even if he does so with the certainty it will not see out a full term in office.



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