From our correspondent
March 14, 2022, a significant date in the contemporary history of Portugal. On that day, this small country in western Europe lived longer in a democracy than in a dictatorship. One day more exactly than under the Salazar regime, from 1926 to 1974. A symbolic temporal border crossed without jolts. It was of course a coincidence of the calendar that made known at that time the composition of the new socialist government, Antonio Costa’s third.
His party won an absolute majority in the early legislative elections of January 30, thus sweeping away several months of political and institutional difficulties. First it was the rejection of the finance bill for the current year, the withdrawal of objective support from the far left, the dissolution of the National Assembly, then the early elections in the midst of a pandemic. And a final postponement with the repetition of the European electoral ballot after the discovery of embezzlement.
Enough to throw in the towel, but Antonio Costa saw it, on the contrary, as an opportunity to lead the legislature for the next four years alone. “Antonio Costa had announced that he was going to reconcile the Portuguese if he won an absolute majority. And that he would open the dialogue”, explains Marina Costa Lobo, political scientist, specialist in electoral issues. The polls gave him the green light to lead a government for four years that promises to be one of continuity around party loyalists.
The unbolting of the plate of the parliamentary group of the People’s Party, the CDS-PP, from the wall of the Assembly where it had been fixed for forty-seven years, marked the spirits. The founding party of Portuguese democracy did not elect any deputies. “His electorate is very dispersed. For a long time the CDS-PP had been plagued by internal quarrels and marked by the defection of party barons. Faced with the increase in the partisan offer, his voters deserted him”continues Marina Costa Lobo. “The CDS-PP was one of the pillars of democracy, but political systems change. Beyond the appearance of the Liberal Initiative party (IL), with a very liberal discourse, which captivated its electorate, the CDS-PP was above all swallowed up by its internal fratricidal struggles., explains André Freire, professor of political science at the Institute of Labor and Business Sciences. The IL, which advocates economic ultra-liberalism, went from 1 to 8 deputies in the new Assembly.
But the real surprise of the new legislature are the twelve deputies of the far-right populist party, Chega (“Enough!”). Its leader and sole deputy, André Ventura, had bet on becoming the third political force in the country. Henceforth, having emerged from its marginal role, Chega has the pretension of being a “particular opponent” to Antonio Costa. “It is important to know what degree of competence Chega can mobilize to propose a coherent strategy. Until now, it was a volatile party, with multiple changes of position. We have witnessed a kind of liberal Bonapartism, which is already no longer current.emphasizes the academic André Freire.
As for the Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, he has surrounded himself with loyal lieutenants to deal with any eventuality, and with novice personalities, or almost, for field policy. A Portuguese “at the same time”, a mixture of audacity and prudence. With, to leave no doubt, the portfolio of European affairs placed in the hands of the head of government. A sign of the troubled times that Europe is going through.