Portugal’s political future uncertain

Country in limbo until March

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Bloomberg – The surprise resignation of Portugals Prime Minister Antonio Costa has kicked off what’s set to be a tight race between the senior figures in his party jostling to replace him and opposition leaders seeking to exploit the political turmoil from a probe into possible government corruption.

With an election scheduled for March 10, the challenge for Costa’s governing Socialists (PS) will be to hold onto votes amid the investigation, anger over housing, low wages and a previous pay controversy at state airline TAP SA – widely reported here

Portugal must first pick a new leader, with Costa, 62, saying he won’t stand again. Two current and one former minister could run. Meanwhile, the leader of the centre-right PSD has said he’s ready to bid for the premiership (this is the same party that has been in power in Madeira for as long as anybody can remember).

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The week of high political drama marks a watershed moment for Portugal according to Bloomberg. Costa, who’s been in the top job since 2015, was re-elected at the start of last year with an absolute majority in parliament, ensuring backing for budgets. That meant he no longer needed to bargain with far-left parties to get support for legislation, like he did during his first two terms.

An absolute majority is unlikely to be repeated, with Costa badly tarnished, forcing the larger parties to try to govern with a minority in parliament, or to attempt coalitions that may seek concessions on such things as government spending

Portugal’s post-pandemic growth abating

Interest rates have risen sharply in Portugal over the last two years and the economy is cooling after a post-pandemic growth surge. The central bank sees growth of 2.1% this year and 1.5% in 2024, down from almost 7% in 2022.

The election won’t just be about the two main centrist parties. When Costa was reelected in January 2022, the far-right Chega (Enough!) party grew to 12 seats in parliament from one, becoming the third-biggest force. Opinion polls indicate support for that party has since increased further, and it is becoming aa real force in Portugal – and Madeira.

In a poll published on Friday, PSD had almost 22% backing, leading the Socialists by 3.9 percentage points. Chega had 13%, and the survey indicated 19% of voters were undecided.

Thanks to PeterA for the link

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