#ThisIsACoup Portugal edition


What is going on in Portugal?

Portugal held an election on 4.10.15 with the following results

– PàF (right-wing government coalition): 38.6% (107 MPs)
– PS (Socialist Party): 32.4% (86 MPs)
– BE (Left Bloc): 10,2% (19 MPs)
– CDU (Communist Party): 8,3% (17 MPs)
– PAN (People Animals and Nature): 1,4% (1 MP)

The President has instructed the incumbent Passos Coelho to form a minority government, rather than offering the chance to a left parliamentary majority to govern.

According to the WSJ, Mr. Cavaco Silva, a conservative politician, rebuffed the leftist bid. In a televised speech, he criticized the pro-European Socialists for seeking an agreement with far-left parties that question European Union fiscal restraints, oppose Portugal’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and are willing to take Portugal out of the eurozone.

“After undertaking a demanding bailout, which required sacrifices from the Portuguese, it is my duty to do everything I can to make sure that wrong signals aren’t sent to financial institutions, investors and markets, which would put into question the confidence and credibility the country has been recovering with great effort,” the president said.

Mr. Cavaco Silva said a leftist government wouldn’t guarantee the country’s “stability, durability and credibility.”

“Never in 40 years of democracy have the governments in Portugal relied on the support of anti-European political forces,” he said.

Is this a coup? The #ThisIsACoup hastag was used aplenty in Greece after Mr Tsipras decided to sign Bailout 3 ignoring the results of his own referendum, which supposedly empowered him to bring a worse deal than the one the Greek people had rejected.

I do not know enough about Portuguese politics to answer my own question, but I do know that knee-jerk reactions and crying wolf usually fails to help in situations such as this. I am an old hand in complaining about technocracy and neoliberal domination (see this piece I wrote for the TNI), but let us pause for a second and consider the following: At what point should a country’s institutions resist a seemingly democratic mandate.

Surely it is beyond the pale to deny the right to form a government to a leftist coalition that commands a Parliamentary majority. The Portuguese president claims that such a coalition has intent that is antithetical to the interests of the country.

Maybe it does, but who is to judge what is in the interests of the country? Surely the people who vote are the best judges of that? Sure, of course, but what if the Parliamentary majority in question was not composed of leftists but of Nazis?

If in Greece, Golden Dawn was to join a governing coalition, should the President refuse them the command to form a government? If in France Marine Le Pen were to win, could the Constitutional Council deny her the Presidency as her programme is antithetical to the values of the Republic?

Political theory aside, what would you do, how would you feel if any of the above were to happen?



3 thoughts on “#ThisIsACoup Portugal edition

  1. Here’s a nice clear explanation. The President is clearly abusing his position, but it need not stay like that for long: https://medium.com/@chrishanretty/dan-hannan-and-owen-jones-are-both-wrong-on-portugal-6c3e38b9a5e8#.lmxo3gmom

    The President went on to say:
    “However, the appointment of the Prime Minister by the President of the Republic does not finalize the process of forming a Government. The final decision belongs to Parliament or, more precisely, to the Members of Parliament. The rejection of the Government Programme, by an absolute majority of Members of Parliament, implies its resignation”.


  2. You are absolutely correct. The system “we” created to keep “our team” in power, does not look so fantastic anymore.

    I certainly have not analysed or studied the subject of coalition governments, but my simple and quick thought is that they have never really worked well. There are too many compromises and deals made in order to be the glue to keep the whole mess together. Once an election is over, the people’s wishes are forgotten or at least swept aside and the politicians do whatever they want to.

    It’s far from ideal, but I have not had enough to consider what the alternatives could or would be.


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