The newly elected conservative government of Portugal is at risk of being toppled just 11 days after taking office. The President has warned that, were that to happen, Portugal will be “uncontrollable”.
Portugal shows striking signs of following Greece down the road of political instability caused by a combination of high debts and a desire to keep the Euro. On Friday, returning prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho was sworn into office having steered the centre-right coalition Portugal Ahead to victory earlier this month, the Telegraph has reported.
However, support for the coalition, a pact between the Social Democrats and the People’s Party, has waned over the last four years thanks to a series of austerity measures implemented to qualify for a bail out package granted by the European Union in 2011. It does not, therefore, have a majority in Portugal’s Assembly of the Republic, placing Passos Coelho in a precarious position.
To his left, a coalition of socialists, communists and radical leftists have vowed to block the appointment of Passos Coelho at a Parliamentary vote, due on November 10th. Toppling the government within eleven days would grant it the dubious distinction of being Portugal’s shortest administration in the country’s 40 years of post-war democracy.
The country’s President, Anibal Cavaco Silva, who has been in office since 2006 has defended himself against accusations of constitutional overreach from the left-wing bloc, insisting that he was right to appoint Passos Coelho and declare that he would protect the government from a leftist coup.
However, in an address to the nation he also struck a more conciliatory tone, urging all parties to come to an agreement for the sake of their country.
“Without political stability, Portugal will become an uncontrollable country. And, of course, no one trusts an ungovernable country,” he said, adding: “The government taking over today does not have majority in parliament so the effort of dialogue and compromise has to proceed with the other political forces to seek the necessary understanding.”
He went on to warn the left against derailing four years of fiscal consolidation and provoking a fight with the Eurozone.
Meanwhile the Prime minister has come out fighting, insisting that Portugal’s commitment to the Eurozone is “imperative”.
“Nobody should risk the well-being of the Portuguese in the name of ideological agendas or personal or political ambition,” he said.
The left-wing alliance is, however, keen to reverse many of the austerity measures undertaken by the last government, particularly those affecting low income pensioners and workers.
And while the pro-Euro Socialist Party is keen to present itself as the only stable alternative to Portugal Ahead, their more radial partners have indicated a willingness to ditch some of their more ambitious plans, including an exit from the Eurozone, renationalisation of industries and massive debt restructuring.
“All three sides seem too committed to reaching a deal, and failure to do so would likely be a major electoral blow to all three, confirming Cavaco’s contention that the Left is unable to provide a credible alternative,” said Frederico Santi at Eurasia group.
Should the left-wing coalition fail in its bid to wrestle power from Passos Coelho on the 10th, the country will face a six month wait under a caretaker government before going back to the polls, as Portugal’s constitution does not allow for more than one election within a six month period.