In an extraordinary constitutional sleight of hand, Portuguese president Anibal Cavaco Silva has defied the will of the Portuguese electorate by refusing to allow Left-wing coalition parties the right to form a government, even though they command a clear majority in the Portuguese parliament. In the October 4 Portuguese election, the socialist party, the Left Bloc, the communists and the Greens won 122 of 230 parliamentary seats, as opposed to 107 for the Right-wing coalition. Moreover, Left-wing parties won 50.7% of the vote at the polls.
With both Portuguese socialists and communists ready to form a coalition, it is apparent that their anti-austerity platform was deemed too risky by Mr. Cavaco Silva, who has instead asked the incumbent conservative party to carry on as a minority government. Whereas Euroscepticism has traditionally been viewed as a right of center phenomenon, growing discontent among southern European electorates has seen them direct their ire at the markets and supranational bodies such as the IMF and the EU. With IMF dictated curbs on public spending affecting welfare provision for the poor and needy, together with the widespread perception that the country is being run from elsewhere, a raft of Left-wing parties have rallied to the anti-austerity cause.
Despite transparent disapproval of the government’s policies in Portugal, Mr. Cavaco Silva feels that the national interest would not be best served by allowing socialist leader Antonio Costa close to power, even though Mr. Costa has been legitimately brokering an alliance between the communist party and the radical Left Bloc. Speaking in Lisbon late last week, President Cavaco Silva stated:
“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,”
The bind in which the Portuguese Left finds itself is similar to many in the Eurozone and especially those economies in southern Europe. As noted Eurozone commentator Ambrose Evans-Pritchard observed last week:
“Europe’s socialists face a dilemma. They are at last waking up to the unpleasant truth that monetary union is an authoritarian Right-wing enterprise that has slipped its democratic leash, yet if they act on this insight in any way they risk being prevented from taking power.”