In the run-up to the legislative elections on 17th March, the Portuguese political parties line up for possible future coalitions.
After six years in power, the ruling Partido Socialista (Socialist party) is unable to communicate to the population the many important reforms it has made, a victim of the eternal political wasting process. New PS leader Ferro Rodrigues, whose slogan is “Positive Portugal”, an economist from the left wing of the party, declares confidently that “There are those who think the election is decided against us. They are wrong” and plays an interesting political card, admitting that “We must have the humility to recognise the mistakes we have made. There were many and some of them were serious”, but he also plays the wild card, claiming that he is a breath of fresh air because he is not from the main party apparatus, the apparatchiks who closed ranks behind Antonio Guterres, the former General secretary of the PS and currently the Prime Minister of Portugal.
The main opposition party, Partido Social Democrata (Social Democrats, centre-right) appear to have recovered their image after it was seriously damaged after four years of scandalous corruption and mismanagement between 1991 and 1995. Former defence Minister Durao Barroso, who began his political career on the radical left with the Portuguese People’s Revolutionary Party (MRPP) after the 1974 revolution, is one of those political chameleons who manages to do the full swing to the party where he feels he has a shot at the top job.
Those who remember him from his MRPP days, this faction being the most violent of all the many factions in post-revolutionary Portugal, will never consider him as serious. However, thirty years on, a lot of new voters will never remember the MRPP and Barroso has a professional political mechanism behind him. His main theme is to contain public spending (like all Conservative Parties) and he claims that he will reveal the real budget deficit in Portugal, which he states is far higher than the official 1.8%, a move which may earn him a wrap on the knuckles by Brussels.
The third party in Portugal is the CDU (Coligacao Democratica Unitaria), or Unitary Democratic Coalition, between the Portuguese Communist Party and the Ecological Green Party. Leader Carlos Carvalhas, who replaced historic figure Alvaro Cunhal as General Secretary, has decided to concentrate on the power-house behind his party, namely Lisbon and Setubal (south of Lisbon) which elected 9 of the party’s 15 Members of Parliament in 2000. Using the slogan “Change for the better, a stronger CDU”, the Communists will concentrate on their strengths and forget their weaknesses.
Carlos Carvalhas claims that “There are citizens who recognise the value of our intervention and the justice of our proposals and our project, but they have the idea that we never win”. He added that “It is for this reason that we must insist with these voters that we are a party ready to take up the highest responsibilities in the country”. The Communists concentrate their power base in Lisbon, Setubal and the rural Alentejo area, representing around 10% of the vote.
The fourth political organisation is the Partido Popular (People’s Party), “The right arm of Portugal”, unlike the name a right-wing party led by the arrogant and crisp Paulo Portas and his clique of elitists. A party in free-fall, they aspire to a dream of forming a coalition government grabbing on to the coat-tails of the PSD. The PP goes for the easy votes, proclaiming that they are the party for pensioners.
Finally, the Bloco de Esquerda (Left Block), with two Members of Parliament, together with the Communists, the party which made most proposals in the national and European Parliaments. The BE has passed some important laws, protecting the rights of homosexuals, promoting social pharmacies, selling cheap, generic drugs in poorer areas and decriminalising drug use.
The Communists and BE have already commented on the possibility to form a coalition government with the Socialists. On March 17th, Portugal will decide between left and right, with no one party gaining a clear advantage, unless something drastic happens in the next three weeks.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru