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Majority

Absolute majority doesn’t mean absolute power’ (António Costa)

Against all odds, Portugal’s centre-left Socialists won a straight parliamentary majority in last week’s general election, securing a strong new mandate for Prime Minister António Costa. It is for the first time the Socialists have won an absolute majority after six years in power. This means the country will have a stable government to oversee the application of the EU pandemic recovery package of 16.6 billion euros.


The striking victory didn’t remain unnoticed abroad as was highlighted in the international press headlines.

 ‘Socialists win surprise outright majority (Guardian)
‘Antonio Costa, the shrewd negotiator’ (El País)
‘Prime Minister with few obstacles and more longevity’ (El Mundo)
‘António Costa builds its legend’ (La Vanguardia)
‘The indestructible socialist, who united the left’ (El Español)
‘António Costa’s revenge’ (Le Monde)
‘Portugal promotes the Costa model’ (La Republica)
‘An overwhelming majority, animosity with Chega’ (Folha de São Paulo)
Portugal’s Socialists win an Outright Majority in Parliament (New York Times)
‘António Costa’s impressive victory’ (Politico)

The Socialist Party (PS) smashed its former far-left allies, the Left Bloc (BE) and the Communists (PCP) both losing more than half of their seats in parliament. The centre-right fared barely better. The second-largest Social-Democratic Party (PSD) gathered only 30% of the vote (against the Socialists’ around 42%).
The People and Nature party (PAN) lost three of its four MP’s and the Christian Democrats (CDS) lost all its five MP’s in parliament, including its leader. 


Despite the coronavirus pandemic, turnout was on track to beat 2019’s record low participation of 49%.


But the election results also showed a less pleasant surprise.
The far-right Chega (Enough) emerged as the third-largest parliamentary force, making a big leap from just one MP to 12 in the 230-seat parliament.



Costa – PM since 2015 – has won plaudits for turning around the country’s 2011-2014 debt crisis, reversing unpopular austerity measures, decreasing the budget deficit, and overseeing one of the most successful Covid vaccination programs in Europe. Still, Portugal remains western Europe’s poorest country. His biggest challenge will therefore be to promote economic growth.


The PM declared in his victory speech: ‘An absolute majority doesn’t mean absolute power. It doesn’t mean to govern alone but to govern with and for all Portuguese’.
But there is also a warning. The last time the Socialists had an absolute majority was with José Socrates in 2005 and that administration was marked by corruption and authoritarianism.



Enjoy your week    —      Tenha uma semana fixe        (pic Público/Sapo)







Elections

‘Democracy has no owner’ (Carlos Moedas, new mayor of Lisbon)

The ruling center-left Socialist Party (PS) of prime minister António Costa won the local elections with 34% of the votes. Although less convincing than 4 years ago, when the SP was able to take the lead in 160 of the 308 municipalities. This time the party lost 11 councils.

The center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) gained ground with 24% of the votes. After its worse result ever in 2017 – winning only 98 councils – it recovered 16 municipalities, giving the party the chance to nominate the mayor.

The completely unexpected loss of the Socialists in Lisbon against Novos Tempos (‘New Times’) – a coalition of right-wing parties, including the PSD – meant a sensitive blow to the PS, who had been in power there for 14 consecutive years.

The newly elected mayor in the capital – Carlos Moedas – however, will face a red wall of councillors. The rightist PSD coalition has seven councillors, exactly the same amount as the leftist PS. But there are three more councillors who are likely to team up with the PS. Two communists and one from the Left Bloc, a party with Marxist roots and 19 deputies in Parliament but no mayors at the local level.

The Centre Democratic and Social Popular Party (CDS-PP) – a conservative Christian anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia party – won, in alliance with the PSD, in only 5 councils. One less than four years ago.

The biggest loser was the one-hundred-year-old Communist Party (PCP) – one of the strongest communist parties in Western Europe – who got just over 8% of the votes, losing 5 of their 19 councils. Their worst result since 1976, when Portugal introduced democracy after the Carnation Revolution.


The far-right, xenophobic and nationalist party Chega (‘Enough’) – with one seat in Parliament and taking part in the local elections for the first time – achieved modest success with 4% of the votes, not enough though to conquer a council.

Only 28 councils (9%) were won by a woman, 4 less than in 2017. The Socialists elected most women for mayor – 18 out of 28 – followed by the Social Democrats with 7 women and the Communists with 3 women in the leadership.

The turnout was traditionally poor.
Of the nine million voters, who were able to take part in this election, just over 50% showed up.

Enjoy your week                   Approveite sua semana      (pic Sapo/Ptres)


Climate-proof

‘There is no planet B’

Portugal prepares to vote in Sunday’s general election.
With thousands of youngsters filling the streets at Lisbon’s Global Climate strike, one wonders how ‘green in fact its political parties are?

The centre-right Social Democrat party (PSD) recognizes ‘the state of emergency the planet is in’ but only presents measures enhancing the country’s ‘adaptation to climate change’ by limiting urban expansion in risk zones and favouring garden roofs. The PSD argues the energy sector to adapt but doesn’t specify how.

For the ruling Socialist party (PS) climate change adaptation is also needed. But that isn’t enough. The party defines concrete targets for 2030 and others for 2050, such as carbon neutrality. The PS wishes to reinforce the capacity of wind farms and – faced with extreme weather – extend forecasting and warning systems. Empowering farmers ‘to adopt good practices’ is also called for.

The Left Bloc (BE) is in favour of a Climate Law, an Energy Base Law and a Ministry of Climate Action. The far-left party advocates the end of fossil fuel car production by 2025 and coal-fired power generation by 2023, in the meantime accelerating solar production. It also intends to ban cars from city centres and strives for free public transport, favouring investment in ‘rail mode’.

The Unitary Democratic Coalition (CDU) – an electoral coalition between Communists and ecologist Greens – rejects green taxation, the concept of user pays and CO2 licensing. Instead, the railway network should be modernized with ‘high-speed connections’ from Lisbon to Porto and the Spanish border. It also advocates a Forest Policy based on traditional ecosystems.

The millennium Animal and Nature party (PAN) – founded in 2009 – wants vegetarian meals at state-sponsored events, prevention of any exploitation of hydrocarbons and the closure of all coal plants by 2023. Furthermore financial benefits for cycling to work, measures to reduce car traffic, restrictions on night air traffic and the suspension of the construction of a new airport.

For the rightwing Christen Democrats (CDS) a Climate Law for carbon neutrality is warranted. The party wishes to materialize an energy transition with transparency in the energy market’. Other objectives include ‘green’ entrepreneurship, full electrification and expansion of the railways.

However, the level of commitment of all six major parties is far too low, argues a group of independent citizens, analysing the elections programs. None of the parties mentions sufficient steps to reach the 96 goals (metas) defined in the Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality.
The PS – with 40 targets – comes first, which is not surprising given that the Roadmap is an initiative of the current socialist government. The CDU closes the peloton with only 13 targets covered. PAN proposes the most CO2 reduction measures and BE is the party that most concretises the actions to achieve carbon neutrality.

The polls suggest António Costa’s Socialist party will win but fall short of an absolute majority in parliament.
If the climate were to choose, it would be a coalition of the Socialist party and the Left Bloc or the PAN- which is less ideologically fixed.

Bom fim de semana                Enjoy your weekend            (pic. Público/Sapo)