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Portugal's new Prime Minister - 11 July, 2004

Pedro Santana Lopes takes over from Durao Barroso
As Jose Manuel Durao Barroso prepares himself for the Presidency of the European Commission, President Sampaio gives preference to Santana Lopes over new elections.

President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal decided yesterday to request the number 2 in the Social Democratic Party, the largest in the government coalition (together with the Popular Party, Conservatives), to form a government, sparing the coalition almost certain defeat in an early election.

Pedro Manuel Santana Lopes awaits the (certain) rubber stamp from his party to present a new government to President Sampaio as Prime Minister this week.

Born in Lisbon on 29th June 1956, Santana Lopes became interested in politics during his childhood, discussing the events of the times with his father and grandfather. He entered the law faculty of Lisbon University in 1974, teaching at night and selling books to help pay for his studies.

It was in the law faculty that he began to reveal his considerable skills as an orator, leading a student movement called the Independent Law Movement, before becoming a member of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) in 1976.

Having finished his course in 1978, he won a scholarship from the German government to study Political Science and European Studies. After completing this course, he entered the team of Prime Minister Sa Carneiro, founder of the PSD, as his legal advisor and in 1980, he was elected a Member of Parliament, at 24 years of age.

Prime Minister Cavaco Silva appointed Santana Lopes the Secretary of State of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, a post which was interrupted by two years as member of the European Parliament between 1987 and 1989, when he was nominated Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs, a post which
he held between 1989 and 1994.

Here, he sent out a clear message of what he was capable of, restoring degraded buildings, launching multiple initiatives which witnessed the creation of three orchestras, 48 libraries, the modernization of numerous public spaces - cinemas, amphi-theatres, exhibition rooms for paintings and photographs and public and private funding for companies and initiatives in the area of dancing, the theatre, music and the plastic arts.

Pedro Santana Lopes grew with the post, presiding over the European Council of Ministers of Culture in 1992.

In 1995, in a brief interlude outside politics, Santana Lopes successfully applied for the Chairmanship of Sporting Clube de Portugal, continuing the work of Sousa Cintra in stabilizing the club and appointing the staff which would later lead the club to its first trophies in decades.

In 1997, he became the mayor of the Municipality of Figueira da Foz, gaining acclaim as the most energetic and most successful Mayor the Municipality has ever had. He improved the school accommodation, the road network, built new residential areas, public parks, upgraded the sanitation network, created jobs, increased tourism and attracted visitors for the cultural events which he promoted.

Four years later, he won a brilliant victory in the Municipal elections for Lisbon Municipal Council and immediately began an ambitious programme to improve the traffic circulation in the city, along with a series of projects to improve urban spaces and upgrade the quality of life in the capital city of Portugal.

Accused by some of applying cosmetic solutions rather than long-term strategies, Pedro Santana Lopes is perhaps the only member of the ruling coalition with the charisma and verve to have any semblance of a chance of re-election in two years' time. His premiership presents him with a white paper to write on.

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