Minority Rules

Billboard for António Costa, leader of the PS. Photo by El-Kelaa-des-Sraghna (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Billboard for António Costa, leader of the PS. Photo by El-Kelaa-des-Sraghna (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On October 4, Portugal had a general election. The results were mixed, with the center-right Forward Portugal alliance (PAF) winning the most seats, but losing its actual majority in parliament. The majority of the seats were won by left of center parties, the largest of which is the Socialists (PS) followed by the Left Bloc (BE) and Communist (PCP) parties.

Thursday night, President Anibal Cavaco Silva said that he would not allow a coalition of the PS, BE and PCP to form a government, arguing that it was too risky to let the Left Bloc or Communists come close to power. He 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.

“This is the worst moment for a radical change to the foundations of our democracy.”

Instead, he reappointed the current prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho of the PAF, and gave him ten days to form a government and present a program, which the majority coalition says that they’ll reject. If the program is rejected by the majority, the government basically collapses, as it’s a vote of no confidence. However, under the Portuguese constitution, they can’t hold new elections until the second half of next year. This means almost a year of nothing getting done, which should sound familiar to all of you who live in the US.

Usually, there wouldn’t even be talk about a coalition on the left, as historically the PS, BE and PCP feud more than they agree, But this time it’s different. As in other European countries who’ve been under austerity programs in recent years, there’s a growing backlash against such programs. Here, the factions on the left in Portugal have found a common cause.

While Portugal isn’t any longer under a Troika regime, it still has a heavy debt load. The public debt is 127% of GDP and total debt is 370%, which is worse than in Greece. While the majority coalition would increase spending on health and education to help stimulate the economy, the PAF led government would continue to follow the EU’s Fiscal Compact, which calls for debt to be down to 60% of GDP within twenty years. For this to happen, Portugal would need to continue with its severe austerity program, with cuts to those programs instead.

This should all sound familiar to you, as we saw much the same thing happen in Greece with Syriza. A government elected on an anti-austerity platform is blocked from doing the people’s will by the banks and the government officials they control. What’s even more alarming is that in Portugal, they didn’t even pretend to listen to the people’s will.

Occupy World Writes stands in solidarity with the majority coalition. We call for President Cavaco Silva to ask the majority coalition to form the government and enact the policies that the people voted for. Enough is enough.

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