Portugal – Redux: “I’m less heartened by the way in which individuals misinterpret other countries’ politics to prove particular political points.”

Make that individuals and political parties…

Like David, Sinn Féin had another go at framing the narrative over recent events in Portugal.

Unlike David, they didn’t reverse ferret totally change their perspective after reading a random blog post…

The initial charge (24 Oct) from the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, TD, was that “Events in Portugal expose anti-democratic nature of EU

…in Portugal we are witnessing the makings of a genuine coup with the unwillingness of the establishment there to accept the outcome of an election and the support won by parties who oppose EU austerity.

“Effectively those who won the election are being prevented from taking office to appease an EU elite.

“This confirms the worst fears of people here about the direction of the EU and further exposed the anti-democratic nature of present EU project.

The follow-up (30 Oct) came courtesy of the party chairman, Declan Kearney.  [Was it the Dark Side again? – Ed]  Ermm, no.

This time, after misinterpreting events in Greece, Sinn Féin’s Declan Kearney turned his attention to Portugal.

“The anti-democratic character and unswerving allegiance to austerity ascendant with the EU, is now intervening again in the democratic process of Portugal. The political establishment there has rejected the electoral mandate of the Socialist party, Left Bloc and the Community Party to form a left coalition.

“President Silva has said he would not be able to give power to ‘anti-European partisan forces’. That was in response to Angela Merkel’s assertion that an anti-austerity government would be a ‘very negative’ development.

“There is no surprise in any of this. The conservative right are now on an offensive across Europe to entrench inequality as a means of social control.

[The Community Party!? – Ed]  He means the Portuguese Communist Party [PCP] who hold the majority of the 17 seats won by the Unity Democratic Coalition [CDU].

[And the “political establishment”? – Ed]  The democratically elected President. [Republicans, eh? – Ed]  Indeed.  It’s the Communist Party that the President regards as “anti-European political factions”.

It’s not clear whether Sinn Féin are being briefed on this by Daniel Hannan or Owen Jones, but in either case Chris Hanretty’s rebuttal from 25 Oct is still relevant.

In this case, the facts are these:

  1. In the elections of the 4th, no single party secured a majority. The incumbent right-wing Social Democrats (PSD) and their allies the CDS won the most votes and the most seats, but failed to win an overall majority. Their main challengers, the Socialists (PS) improved their vote and seat share, but the big winners were the Left Bloc (BE).
  2. Prior to the elections, the PS had not discussed a pre-electoral alliance with the Left Bloc or the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP). However, once it became clear that these parties had won a majority of the vote (50.75%) and a majority of seats (122 of 230), negotiations began.
  3. The Portuguese constitution gives the President of the Republic the task of “appoint the Prime Minister after consulting the parties with seats in Assembly of the Republic and in the light of the electoral results” (Art. 187).
  4. The current President is Anibal Cavaco Silva, the most successful leader the right-wing PSD has ever had.
  5. On the 22nd, the President gave the leader of the PSD, Pedro Passos Coelho, the task of forming the next government, as some had expected he might.
  6. In the speech explaining this decision, the President explained that in all previous elections, the task of forming the government went to the party with the most seats, even where that party did not have a legislative majority. He gave the example of the 2009 election, where the PS formed a government.
  7. The President went on to say:

However, the appointment of the Prime Minister by the President of the Republic does no finalize the process of forming a Government. The final decision belongs to Parliament or, more precisely, to the Members of Parliament. The rejection of the Government Programme, by an absolute majority of Members of Parliament, implies its resignation”.

8. The President also said:

Outside the European Union Portugal’s future would be catastrophic.

In 40 years of democracy, the Portuguese governments never depended from anti-European political factions, that is, of the political factions which, in the electoral manifestos with which they presented themselves to the Portuguese, defended the repeal of the Lisbon Treaty, of the Budgetary Treaty, of the Banking Union and of the Pact of Stability and Growth, as well as the dismantlement of the Economic and Monetary Union and Portugal’s exit from the Euro, and, still further, the dismemberment of NATO, of which Portugal is a founder member”.

These remarks were directed against the the PCP, which has proposed exit from the Eurozone and NATO.

This all means that the EU has not prevented Leftist parties from forming a government. The EU did nothing. The Portuguese President made a decision. He decided to ask an (1) incumbent PM who is (2) leader of the party with the most seats and who is (3) of the same party as the President, to form a government. If the right is unsuccessful, then the government will be voted down, and the left will have the chance to put together an alternative.

As Chris Hanretty says,

I’m less heartened by the way in which individuals misinterpret other countries’ politics to prove particular political points.

[And political parties! – Ed] Indeed.

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  • Robin Keogh

    The conservative governemnt looks like it will fall within a number of days. The President acted in the interest of his own party connections and not in the intertest of stable government. The socialist have the support of other left parties to form an alternative governemnt with a majority in the house. The fact the left wants to roll back on austerity measures and come into conflict with the EU is the driving force behind the presidents stance. Whatever way you try to skin the cat it amounts to an undemocratic interference on the part of the President. The conservatives cannot get agreement wioth other parties meaning this governemnt will be the shortest administartion in Portugals modern history. The combined left won the election on popular vote, rejecting that mandate simply because it does not fit with the pan european, neo liberal, group think ideology is nothing short of Autocratic.

  • Américo Gonçalves

    Thank you for that, Pete, setting the record straight. Let me just add this: Cavaco Silva pretty much dared his party “go topple the Socialist Gov”, in his inaugural adress in 2011, knowing full well that doing it would mean calling the troika. They saw it as a golden opportunity to impose a “trickle-down on steroids” , blaming the victim for the crime. Now, the election night, everyone’s take was that Costa would resign , in fact some Socialist were calling for it, and the Right Coalition was betting that they would rule , with the Socialists help. It was the President’s speech, on the 5th, that opened the door. He said he charged Passos Coelho to “find a governing solution”. The next day the Communists said, “the Socialists will only not govern if they don’t want to”. As the Right wasted time signing a “Govern Agreement”, the Left parties scrambled into action , and started working on another solution. But by the time the clock ran out, no deal had been signed, which meant Cavaco Silva had every right to appoint Passos Coelho. BUT his speech included two paragraphs too many. If he intended to intimidate the Left, it backfired , big time. The Left united , elected their own Parliament President, Ferro Rodrigues, and as i write, the deal between the PS and BE has already been signed, the PCP soon to follow. As for outside interference, well, the Euro-Right and the Euro-Left both rooted for “their guy”. The most nervous was Rajoy , of course , but atributting Cavaco Silva’s actions to “EU interference” is baseless. I commented on the Torygraph , “when confronted with Forign Affairs, the typical British response is “how can we make this to be about US ? “. Well, you can’t .The same way, i wouldn’t dare to cram what happens in Northern Ireland inside Portuguese affairs.

  • Nick Wright

    “The EU did nothing”
    The whole point about the European Union, its raft of treaties, the ECB and the institutional framework of economic and political integration is that the ruling elite(s) are able to buttress their domestic position.
    The explicit threat, when the Portuguese president asserts that parties such as the PCP cannot be admitted to government, is that if the communists were that the full weight of this institutional power, which as the Greek experience shows is very effect trove, would be deployed.

  • eac1968

    ‘The combined left won the election on popular vote’

    Sorry Robin, but that is not correct. The ‘combined left’ did not run in the election. Individual parties ran on their own platforms and obtained party mandates, not a mandate for a combined left. The parliamentary convention in Portugal has always been that the single largest party has the first go at forming a government after an election. The fact that they might not be able to do so does not mean that it is undemocratic to let them try. The same convention applies in GB, where after the 2010 election David Cameron and Nick Clegg negotiated a coalition agreement. Surely you are not going to suggest that the ‘combined Conservatives / Liberal Democrats’ won that election?

    Although so improbable it is almost a guaranteed impossibility, the PSD in Portugal could theoretically form a coalition with one of the other parties. Under the rules, that would be a legitimate government, even though no-one voted for it. No-one in the UK voted for a Con/LibDem coalition, but they governed successfully for a full parliamentary term with no serious concerns about their legitimacy. (I use ‘successful’ only in the context of their lasting the full 5 years, not for what they did!).

    If, as seems likely, a PSD minority government falls, it will be what happens next that will determine the Portuguese President’s bona-fides. If he asks the leader of the next largest party to try to form a government, and a combined left coalition comes together, it will be the legitimate government. That is what should happen. If, on the other hand, the President dissolves parliament and calls fresh elections, that would be wholly undemocratic and unconstitutional, and I’ll join you in shouting about it.

  • Américo Gonçalves

    Parliament cannot be dissolved within it’s first six months, exactly to prevent “vote until we get it right” moves. And the President also cannot call for elections in his last six months. That leaves only the “House of Cards ” scenario of keeping Passos Coelho until new elections can be called, which would look like a guy gagged and bound, and three other guys beating the crap out of him. Passos himself flactly ruled out that scenario. Cavaco will moan, and hold his nose, but he’ll appoint Costa. Besides, there is a Presidencial race going on, and the front runner, right-wing Marcelo de Sousa, has already made it crystal clear he doesn’t want that either.

  • eac1968

    Thank-you for clarifying the position regarding dissolutions Américo. That’s something of a safeguard.

  • Américo Gonçalves

    No, my friend, THANK YOU , for taking the time to get to know this rather complicated matter. Btw, just in, the PCP announced they have concluded their deal with the PS. That was the last piece of the puzzle. Costa is due to go to a TV station, and announce the country the outlines of the deal, around 8pm.

  • Américo Gonçalves

    For those with a stern stomach, and a Python sense of humour, i strongly recommend reading this deranged “thing” Mehreen Khan posted in the Telegraph : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11980629/Communists-ready-to-assume-power-in-Portugal-and-topple-conservative-government.html It completely ilustrates Pete Baker’s point . I’m calling it “inspired by true events, but entirely ficcional”