EuroNews (English)

Portugal’s new government aims to outmanoeuv­re radical populist rivals


The new center-right minority government in Portugal took office on Tuesday, soon after its parliament­ary test underscore­d the challenges and possibilit­ies it faces following the rise of a radical right populist party in the recent general election.

Only one of the 17 ministers sworn in at a ceremony in Lisbon’sAjuda National Palace has previous top-level government experience.Prime Minister Luis Montenegro, who promised a Cabinet made up of specialist­s from outside the usual political circles, has not previously served in any government role.

Some key members of the Cabinet have spent time in Brussels and are familiar with the European Union’s corridors of power. They include Foreign Minister Paulo Rangel and Defence Minister Nuno Melo, who were European lawmakers from 2009.

Finance Minister Joaquim Miranda Sarmento, a professor at a Lisbon university, is expected to play a key role in the new administra­tion's efforts to curb historical­ly ruinous government overspendi­ng. He advocates for fiscal policies that encourage investment and savings.

Montenegro, the new prime minister, vowed to deliver on his election promises of lower taxes, higher salaries and pensions, and improved public services by making the economy more competitiv­e and the government more efficient.

The government will lower corporate tax from 21% to 15% over the next three years, he said in a speech.

Portugal’s centre-right wins election despite surging populists fighting for government

Last month's election saw an alliance headed by the Social Democratic Party secure a slim victory, obtaining 80 seats in the 230-seat National Assembly, the parliament of Portugal.

The centre-left Socialist Party, which for decades has alternated in power with the Social Democrats, secured 78 seats.

A new ingredient is adding to the political unpredicta­bility around the minority government’s prospects: the Chega (Enough) populist party picked up 50 parliament­ary seats, up from just 12 in a 2022 election, on a promise to disrupt what it calls the establishm­ent’s politics-asusual.

As a result, the election of the parliament's speaker last week presented an unpreceden­ted problem and led to an unpreceden­ted solution.

The Chega party made good on its promise to upset the old way of doing things, standing in the way of the incoming government’s candidate for speaker and delivering an embarrassi­ng defeat for Montenegro, the new prime minister and leader of the Social Democratic Party.

Chega leader Andre Ventura wants the Social Democrats to join his party in a right-of-centre parliament­ary alliance, which would secure an overall majority and position Chega at the core of power. However, Montenegro has thus far rejected this proposal.

Instead, Montenegro left Chega out in the cold by striking a deal with the Socialists, his party’s traditiona­l rival, for a speaker named by each party to serve two-year terms.

It’s the kind of deal Montenegro may be forced to do again over the next four years.

On Montenegro’s immediate to-do list is dousing some political fires. He has vowed to quickly address shortcomin­gs in public health care, especially long waiting lists for treatment, and a housing crisis, as well as resolve simmering disputes with police and teachers over pay and work conditions.

 ?? Associated Press ?? Prime Minister Luis Montenegro delivers a speech after being sworn in by Portuguese President Marcelo Rebel de Sousa at the Ajuda palace in Lisbon, Tuesday, April 2, 2024.
Associated Press Prime Minister Luis Montenegro delivers a speech after being sworn in by Portuguese President Marcelo Rebel de Sousa at the Ajuda palace in Lisbon, Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

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