Portugal’s Socialist leader expects to be named Prime Minister

Antonio Costa [Wikimedia]

Portugal’s centre-right prime minister, and the head of the opposition Socialists, made rival offers yesterday (20 October) to form the next government, exacerbating the country’s political stalemate following this month’s inconclusive election.

Socialist leader Antonio Costa said after meeting Portugal’s president that he was serious about forming a government with the support of the Communist Party and the Left Bloc, which would have a stable majority in parliament.

But caretaker premier Pedro Passos Coelho, whose centre-right coalation won most votes in the 4 October election, but fell short of a majority, said he still expected to be named prime minister.

>> Read: Coelho faces difficulties forming government

>> Read: Portugal’s Socialist leader sees opportunity for leftist cabinet

“We have informed (the president) that following contacts that we have had with the Communist Party and the Left Bloc … there are conditions to form a government with majority support in parliament,” Costa told reporters, adding that the centre-right grouping could not offer such a guarantee.

Echoing his comments, Left Bloc leader Catarina Martins said naming Passos Coelho as prime minister would be “a waste of time” and said she expected an agreement with the Socialists to be formalised in the next few days.

Many political analysts still say a leftist government led by the moderate Socialists is unlikely, because the other two parties are much further to the left and have been fiercely critical of the harsh austerity imposed on Portugal under a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

Passos Coelho has been seeking the backing of the Socialists, which he would need to be able to pass laws in parliament, even if he were to go ahead with a minority government instead of a formal coalition.

Both Passos Coelho and Costa said on Tuesday it was now up to President Anibal Cavaco Silva to decide how to proceed.

The president, who has now held consultations with Passos Coelho, Costa and Martins, is due to meet the head of the Communist Party today. 

Subscribe to our newsletters