Surreal political scandal in Portugal

The Portuguese socialist Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, in power since 2015, resigned on November 7. Corruption, telephone tapping, etc. Except that once he resigned, we realized that the telephone tapping was that of another Costa, and what’s more, another minister…

franceinfo: we actually discover that these wiretaps did not come from the Prime Minister, it was not the right Costa…

Ana Navarro-Pedro: That’s exactly it. Portugal is completely upset. On November 7, search of the Prime Minister’s office, his official residence, shortly after the Prime Minister declared: “Well, in these circumstances, obviously, I resign”. The country is entering a phase of doubts. And then, a week later, the justice system, after having said: yes, we have telephone tapping which implicates him, declares a week later: “In fact, we got the name wrong, it wasn’t him, it was the Minister of the Economy, who is also called Costa”.

It is still serious to have a minister, an advisor to the Prime Minister and his chief of staff, involved in a case of corruption, and especially influence peddling. Moreover, the name of these scandals is called “the case of the influencers” because in fact, it was using influence peddling for grants to exploit lithium mines, among others.

Which is already a real scandal in Portugal?

Yes, that’s it, that’s the highlight of this investigation, as well as other things, a data center, the production of green hydrogen, but we see that there is really nothing against the Prime Minister. The investigation will now tell. But already, justice itself is being called into question. Was it just carelessness, stupidity or something worse?

What will happen to Antonio Costa, because there was a lot of talk about him as the future president of the European Union?

He was to succeed Charles Michel, at the head of the European Council. It is now believed that his future is in the hands of Portuguese justice. It will need to be completely whitened. Will the schedule allow it? The fact remains that Antonio Costa was in Germany this week, visiting a small town where the Portuguese Socialist Party, to which he belongs, was created during the dictatorship. The German Social Democrats still seem to believe that it can have a European future.

And his Portuguese future?

For Portugal, it’s over. The President of the Republic had the choice between appointing another Prime Minister or calling early elections. The first option was perhaps more plausible, since this government was elected at the beginning of 2022, with an absolute majority, and the stability of the country should prevail, especially as we arrive in 2024, 50 years of democracy in Portugal.

Except that the president chose the second hypothesis, that is to say to request early elections. And there he has a troubled game. This president, who is a right-wing president, therefore cohabiting in Portugal, has never abandoned the idea of ​​bringing his right-wing, conservative camp back into Portuguese politics.

So these polls, at the time of the dissolution, gave a great advantage to his camp, to his party, the PSD. Except that now, some two weeks later, we see that the country will indeed enter into enormous instability. That the one who can stand out from the game is the far-right populist party.

The president himself, seeing that his party will not be able to govern alone, it seems that he would not have ruled out an alliance of the right with the extreme right, (he has not yet confirmed) to achieve in power in March 2024, after early elections.

So the country will enter a period of instability, even though Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, has just said that what Antonio Costa – who has many faults and who perhaps should have managed this government differently – Paul Krugman said that what this government has done, by cutting the ultra-severe austerity policy followed by its right-wing predecessors, while keeping a certain budgetary stability demanded by Brussels, by giving a little oxygen to the the Portuguese economy, allowing increases in pensions and the minimum wage which increased by 72% under his government, and although this is truly a textbook case;

Especially since, at the same time, Portugal repaid its debt in advance, it continues to repay its external debt in advance. So Paul Krugman says:“It’s a textbook case that deserves to be studied, it’s an absolute mystery.”

And we can add that a former Prime Minister published his memoirs, and it is the President of the Republic who has a suit well made by this former Prime Minister?

So it’s an absolute coincidence, because the book came out this week, and obviously, we couldn’t have predicted it. But in his memoirs, the former Prime Minister, Francisco Pinto Balsemao says of the current President of the Republic, whom he met a lot, obviously – they are from the same party and they even governed together – he calls him a scorpion traitor, he talks about his stupidities, his backstabbing, and his morbid need to be in the spotlight all the time…

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