A brief focus on Portugal


A few days after the new minority government of Coelho has shaped, Portugal appears to be towards a parliamentary critical situation. Even before the recent elections of October 4th, the entire left opposition of Coelho (PSD), had made clear that not taking part in the central politics of Portugal in the post-Memorandum period, was not an easy issue to deal with.

The inability, PSD to acquire the government majority, proved to be the passport for the opposition to conquer its government aspirations. A new troubling, parliamentary era, was about to begin.

The opposition, namely the PS, the Left Block, the Communists and the Greens, prepared themselves, in the mean time of the next ten days, during which the PM should write down the main legislative lines of his new term, and then they gave a no-confidence vote. The newly elected government of Coelho has fallen.

In the parliament, Passos Coelho made clear his own aspirations, which would aim at a fiscal economic program, with tide fiscal aims and financial discipline, in accordance with what has prevailed in Portugal during the Memorandum period, during namely the IMF and EZ bailout.

The Constitution does not allow for new elections in the next six months, therefore the President should explore the possibility of settlement within the existing parliament. There are two solutions. First, the new emerging left coalition to become the new government of Portugal. Second the newly elected government of Coehlo to evolve into a “caretaker government”, which will be partly functionable for the period to the next elections. The second scenario creates some serious disfunctioning because this kind of government has restricted legislative abilities, such as the restriction in shaping and passing the Budget Bill.

What is, however, the bigger picture of this critical evolvement in Portugal is expressed into the question whether the political landscape in Europe is constantly changing. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had expressed some serious fears accordingly the elections in Portugal and Spain. Surely the recent developments in Portugal consist of an unpleasant political condition for the current European, mainly economical, status quo. The alternative partisan choices create, mainly theoretical, a risk of economic destabilization, which each single time German aims to confront and transform into an allied condition. The European countries with deficits and tremendous government debt, that accepted a bailout from IMF and EZ since 2010, face some difficult economic and social conditions, that create additional pressure into the political level.

The paradox, however, is that during these yeas, Portugal has emerged as a valuable paradigm case of strict economic adjustments, successful fiscal data and easy way out from the stabilization and fiscal disciplined program. In contrast, specifically, with the Greek case, where the political elite has not been united upon the critical economic conditions, that should face, Portugal provided the opposite successful scenario. The political elite, both from PSD (centre-right) and PS (centre-left), applied with prudence and consistency the obligations and the economic program has been completed faster. However, the completion of the program did not lead to Coelho’s’ consistent societal approval. The electoral body proved to be more divided into the alternatives, and the vote sharing led to a new coalition alternative, this time merely left.

The international and European press tend to emphasize that this upcoming left coalition has nothing to do with the Greek Syriza case and its government doubt, that has been shown in the previous parliamentary term, concerning the continuous or not of the European bailout in the country. The representatives of the entire left coalition in Portugal are making clear that the national policy of staying and being part of EZ will not be at risk. Their main political demand is the new economic program in Portugal to have a different orientation, to be namely growth and public spending oriented. However, the PSD is expressing fears concerning the intentions of this new political coalition that is to become the new government.

Overall, what we should bear in mind when we focus on the analysis about a possibly changing European political landscape, is that the voting sharing follows an alternative destination, when the common sense realizes that no an immediate fiscal danger exists for the country and for themselves in a personal level. During the tough, economically, periods of 2010-2013, the majority of the electoral body was tightly rallied around purely pro-Europe parties.

Second, the Syriza case, although confusing in the European context, provided the, until now, successful scenario of a semi Eurosceptic political party, that easily capitalizes anti European or reactionary votes and at the same time follows the mainstream European official economy strategy.

The core conclusion is that the political systems in Europe are facing pressures, such as the social dynamic of unemployment, the rise of extremism, an antiparliamentary way society chooses to expresses its political demands, and the lack of confidence and trust for the incumbent political elites.

Europe should prepare the strategy for the post-Memorandum period. The main strategy the countries with unbalanced and problematic economics to learn how to function within an economic frame, with established, strict rules that provide health economies, needs to be adjusted with an additional strategy of how to push people that struggle in the new economies to function, to produce for living. This is always about the wealth-fare policy, which is constructed through the years in Europe, by Europe with a fundamental aim to achieve prosperity. Until then we should be prepared to face critical political conditions, such those in Portugal for example, that are being explained only through the prism of the societal anxiety, which as a main target has the prosperity to be established.

Veni Mouzakiari
Veni Mouzakiari
Phd Candidate at the department of International and European Studies, University of Macedonia. Political consultant