The new Portuguese Government opens with measures against inflation after four months of political paralysis | International

The political paralysis that Portugal has been experiencing since last November, when the disagreement on the left caused the unexpected end of the legislature and an early election, ended this Friday. The debate on the government program, which has been held since Thursday in the Assembly of the Republic, marks the official start of the new legislature, characterized by the absolute majority of the Socialist Party (PS), the growth of radical formations to the right and the collapse of leftist forces such as the Bloco de Esquerda or the Portuguese Communist Party, former parliamentary partners of the prime minister, the socialist António Costa.

The new Portuguese Parliament shows that the institutional relationship with the extreme right is one of the main differences between the majority parties in Spain and Portugal. The Assembly table will only have representatives of the Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Party (PSD, center-right), since the candidates presented by Chega (far right) and the Liberal Initiative, who had the right to make a proposal as the third and fourth forces, did not they reached enough votes to sit at the table. PS and PSD have also distributed the presidencies of the parliamentary commissions.

António Costa took advantage of the debate on Thursday to announce the new measures of his Government to combat the rise in prices, which include, among others, the reduction of the tax on fuels as a transitory measure while Brussels does not give the green light to the reduction of VAT, or the increase in families benefiting from state support for the purchase of the basic basket and gas. The measures were approved on Friday afternoon in the Council of Ministers that followed the parliamentary debate.

The electoral support that Costa achieved in January makes the country a rarity in the European Union, where there are only two other states, France and Greece, with governments with an absolute majority. The political victory has been interpreted as a personal triumph for the prime minister, who was appearing for the third time, although his resounding result has not closed the door to journalistic speculation about his march to Brussels before the legislature ends. Costa took advantage of the debate of these days to express for the first time his will to remain in office for the entire mandate. “I will be here four and a half years,” he said on the House floor.

The composition of the new government, which is joint for the first time in the history of Portugal, had fueled the buzz about a supposed early departure of the prime minister to run for a community position. The four most popular candidates to succeed Costa sit in the new Cabinet: Mariana Vieira da Silva, her right-hand woman and a kind of superminister; Fernando Medina, former Mayor of Lisbon and Minister of Finance; Ana Catarina Mendes, former parliamentary spokesperson and now head of Parliamentary Affairs, and Pedro Nuno Santos, the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing and representative of the most leftist wing of the Socialist Party. The entry into this team of Duarte Cordeiro, who was responsible for the electoral campaign, as Minister of Environment and Climate Action, is also interpreted as the fifth guest at the succession table.

This climate led the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, to try to ensure stability for the entire legislature with the announcement that he would call early elections if António Costa left mid-term. “Now that he has won for four and a half years, I am convinced that he knows that it will not be politically easy for that face that unquestionably and remarkably won the elections to be replaced by another halfway through,” Rebelo de Sousa warned during the takeover. inauguration of the new Government a week ago.

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After the war in Ukraine and the cascade of socioeconomic impacts that it has unleashed, the President of the Republic considers institutional stability at the head of the country, which has been blocked for four months, even more necessary. The political crisis in November and the holding of elections in January was followed by the decision of the Constitutional Court to order the repetition of the elections among Portuguese residents in European countries due to the anomalies detected in the electoral process. This forced to delay the institutional calendar almost two months. The country, moreover, is managed with a strict budgetary restraint, since this year’s accounts were not approved.

After the parliamentary debate of the government program, which received a rejection motion from Chega that did not have the support of other opposition parties, Costa intends to bring the Budget project for 2022 to the Chamber imminently, which in November was rejected by the Bloco de Esquerda and the Portuguese Communist Party and led Rebelo de Sousa to call elections. This document was the cornerstone of the electoral program during António Costa’s campaign, which is receiving some criticism for not adapting it more to the new geopolitical and economic circumstances caused by the war in Ukraine, such as the escalation of inflation (more than 5% in Portugal), which the Government considers temporary.

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