Portugal’s Constitutional Crisis: Is the EU now politically bankrupt?

Portugal has been in the news over the past few days as there has been a growing constitutional crisis over the President’s refusal to appoint a left wing coalition in place of the current Social Democratic (Conservatives) government.

Speaking about the crisis the current President, Anibal Cavaco Silva said;

In 40 years of democracy, no government in Portugal has ever depended on the support of anti-European forces, that is to say forces that campaigned to abrogate the Lisbon Treaty, the Fiscal Compact, the Growth and Stability Pact, as well as to dismantle monetary union and take Portugal out of the euro, in addition to wanting the dissolution of NATO.

At the recent General Election the left wing parties led by the Socialists won 50.7% of the vote to the centre right’s 38.5%.

The left wing parties have said that the current government will face an immediate vote of no confidence, however due to Portuguese Constitution a new election would not be able to be held until May/June 2016.

However, the EU seems content to allow this to happen. A Prime Minister is in office who has clearly lost the confidence of his people and parliament and there is an alternative who can command a majority, yet the President refuses to appoint him.

Tim Montgomerie puts the critique very well in The Times

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Another view supporting the President can be found here

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  • Andrew Gallagher

    This whole thing has been overblown. Firstly, the president is legally correct to insist that the current PM has first crack at forming a government, as he is still leader of the largest single party. Also, it is far from clear that the proposed left wing alliance really is ready to govern, as there are significant points of disagreement. The president may well have been politically unwise to make such a partisan speech, but he has done nothing untoward, yet.

    http://zelo-street.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/telegraph-portugal-claim-busted.html?m=1

  • Andrew Gallagher
  • kensei

    The political section of his speech was therefore unnecessarily incendiary. I guess we’ll see in the next month if democracy is getting warped or not.

  • Kevin Breslin

    This doesn’t sound like the EU’s fault, but the Portuguese head of state interfering to keep his own political party in power. You are actually criticizing the EU for NOT interfering in this line:

    However, the EU seems content to allow this to happen.

    Do you think Portugal or the EU is really helped if the EU interferes?

    It’s unrealistic to think that a government with 38% of the seats could last that long. If it had been the UK the election would be gerrymandered so 38% of the votes wins 50% of the seats due to the FPTP mechanism.

    But the Socialist Party has only 32%, and it might not to always work with the other left wing groups including communists.

    I think David you are misrepresenting the issue … what we have is a pro-European grand coalition with a left to right spectrum in minority against a mostly left-wing opposition with a large “pro reformed EU” to completely Anti-EU contingent there is a tribal element.

    It would be looking at Belfast City Council and saying well the PUP being left wing are more likely to vote with the SDLP-Sinn Féin-Greens and People before Profit than they would the more Conservative Unionist parties, yes on somethings, but not on others.

    The Portuguese Socialist party are still pro-EU, but they want it reformed similar to Tsprias’s Syrza Party. Neither the former government nor the Socialist Party can rule alone. The balance between them is held by the far Left groups taking up 18.5% of the vote. Look at UKIP’s stance, they wanted confidence and supply not a coalition, I don’t think it would be in the CDU’s and BE’s interest to join the Portuguese government.

    This far left group is still less than 20%, so how can it get its wishlist of Portugal leaving Fiscal Compacts, NATO, and the Euro etc. any more than the Liberal Democrats as junior coalition partners could reform the House of Lords or stop the renewal of Trident? This things could fail a referendum.

    There is a good question if the British pro-Atlantic anti-EU crowd would be happy supporting Portugal leaving NATO if that’s the will of its people. The EU has let several British and French colonies and Greenland leave it, has NATO let any European nation do the same?

    The EU has no problem with Eurosceptic MEPS, Ministers and even most bizarrely the appointment of Eurosceptic European Commissioners. The EU is full of Eurosceptics putting up obstacles to one another but still suckling to the common ground their home economies need to survive. They know that the Single Market, has to always be a Common Market, or else it becomes a Foreign Market and nationalist pro-protectionists driving their country to be more foreign in the world.

    It is because countries put up protective barriers against co-operation that there is so many difficulties in Europe, and leaving the EU doesn’t change that. It would be like getting a divorce and expecting single women and single men and even to behave like prostitutes and married people to behave like single people.

    Ripping up the hard-fought compromises in the belief of fantasy land one way deals with consent on one side and no consent on the other is the folly of the Tea Taxes lopsided to the British advantage that lead to the Boston Tea Party all over again.

    The grand irony here being if the European Parliament and Commission were being run by the left-wing groups because they were winning MEP seats and ruling governments like Portugal (as may well be the case) as was the case in the 90’s then it would be the centre-right up in arms about how Europe was being run and criticizing the merits of pan-democratic associations.

    The EU has no problem with Eurosceptic MEPS, Ministers and even most bizarrely the appointment of Eurosceptic European Commissioners. The EU is full of Eurosceptics putting up obstacles to one another but still suckling to the common ground their home economies need to survive. They know that the Single Market, has to always be a Common Market, or else it becomes a Foreign Market and nationalist pro-protectionists driving their country to be more foreign in the world.

    The grand irony here being if the European Parliament and Commission were being run by the left-wing groups because they were winning MEP seats and ruling governments like Portugal (as may well be the case) as was the case in the 90’s then it would be the centre-right up in arms about how Europe was being run and criticizing the merits of pan-democratic associations.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Erskine Childers had an unfortunate accident but his his son did quite well I hear.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I would think that is the case, we wouldn’t expect Labour and Sinn Féin to agree with everything the Worker’s Party, People before Profit, the Greens, the Anti-Austerity Alliance etc. want.

  • Américo Gonçalves

    Quick facts for Portuguese politics dummies : António Costa, the leader of the Socialists, is more like Hollande and Renzi , a moderate. He already got the official support of his bretheren parties in the Euro-Parliament, including Martin Schulz, the President . So, scrap the “anti-euro” angle. The Right coalition had the worst electoral result in over thirty years. They suffered 17 sentences for breaching the Constitution, from the Constitutional Court, a body which is known for extreme moderation ; the right coalition is really run by anarco-liberals, way, way off the broad consensus in the country, to the point that the radical Left saw them as an existencial thereat, and buried the hatchet of a 40 year old conflict with the moderate Left. Right now, we’re living one of those times , where you have to pick a side. You either are FOR or AGAINST. Even the moderates in the right, like Presidential front-runner Marcelo de Sousa, came out condemning Cavaco Silva’s stance.

  • However, the EU seems content to allow this to happen.

    Do tell, David, what you would have “the EU” do about the Portuguese President asking the largest party returned in the election to try to form a Government? If he’s acted unconstitutionally then there will be legal remedies available.

    If the centre-right coalition lose a confidence vote in Parliament, then we’ll see what happens. Another election probably.

    But what percentage did the Socialist Party actually get?

    And the Communist Party, whom they would be reliant upon to get that +50% you quoted?

    They’re the ones the President is worried about.

    But that’s what happens when you have an elected President. Republicans, eh?

    Wikipedia has a detailed run-down.

    Portugal Ahead (centre right coalition incl Social Democrats) 38.6% 107 seats (46% of parliament)

    Socialist Party 32.3% 86 seats

    Left Bloc 10.2% 19 seats

    Democratic Unity Coalition (Communists and Greens) 8.3% 17 seats

    Others (People-Animals-Nature) 1.4% 1 seat.

    4 seats to be declared, I think.

    To answer your initial question.

    Is the EU now politically bankrupt?

    No more or less than it was before this.

  • Cohen Sommer

    I’ve voted for CDU, so “scrap the anti-euro” is something that I do not see with good eyes. If you guys want to use MY VOTE to allow you to get in power, you better start thinking about taking Portugal out of the EU.

  • Américo Gonçalves

    You know, Cohen, i used to work for the Congresso Democrático das Alternativas, and those kind of arguments were bread and butter. We can build a broad majority, under the banner of “not like this”. What i’m sick and tired of, is “Life of Brian” PFO’s who , in the name of “ideological purity” end up boycotting any effort to fight THE REAL bad guys. Democracy is a negotiation. You never get everything you want. Not a reason for sitting in your hands, is it ?

  • mickfealty

    Spot on. The spin on this story generally has been appallingly bad… The gap between the leftists has been bridged onto the Socialist (ie, pro EU) ground. They can’t and won’t do a grand coalition with the centre right for fear of getting Pasoked.

  • Which ‘spin’ did you have in mind, Mick?

    That it’s the EU’s fault? 😉

  • Greenflag 2

    Salazar has risen from the dead . He never liked the poor either and certainly not the left

  • Gingray

    David
    This is a pile of the proverbial.

    Nicholas Whyte linked to this on his blog, well worth a read

    https://medium.com/@chrishanretty/dan-hannan-and-owen-jones-are-both-wrong-on-portugal-6c3e38b9a5e8#.8xld97f35

    Your analysis is completely wrong.

  • Missing from article – any action or statement made by the EU or its spokespersons. In fact, the author is effectively complaining that the EU is not meddling in the internal affairs of an EU state. This is rather barmy, to say the least.

  • Helena Murteira

    Just a “slight” clarification. What “significant points of disagreement” do you mean ? Both the Left Bloc and the Communist Party told the country, after meeting the President, that they are both ready to support a government of the Socialist Party. The Left Bloc has stated also that all the major issues have been already negotiated and that they are now just discussing minor topics, which do not undermine, in anyway, their support for a Socialist government. Also, it is anti-democratic and anti-constitutional for a President to make any remarks about the political programs of any parties, particularly when addressing the country!

  • Cohen Sommer

    The Euro, the EU and NATO’s exists are MAJOR ideological differences. We are not talking about rising the minimum salaary to 550 or 600. Those exist will have a huge impact in our lives and should not be perceived as something “negociable”. That is a mistake that Catarina Martins and Jerónimo de Sousa are doing. PS is closer to PSD than it ever was to BE or PCP. That is the hard fact!

  • Américo Gonçalves

    So, in your opinion, the Left is supposed to sit on their hands, and wait for the colapse of Capitalism that Lenin predicted, about 100 years ago, “was right around the corner”. Right, that , and the scond coming of Jesus. Doing things changes things, not doing anything doesn’t change anything, duh ! It’s either dealing with António Costa, or perpetuating Passos Coelho in power. No brainer to me, i’ll rather cut a deal with Costa that suffer another second of that p***k in power. Costa is not the Messiah, far from it, but i’ll take him over Passos Coelho, any day of the week.