Uncertain prospects

Recent elections in Portugal have given rise to a minority conservative government, but a few left-wing parties have also made inroads. Political instability is growing.

The day after Pedro Passos Coelho’s conservative coalition won a disappointing victory in the Portuguese elections in October, most party leaders converged in Lisbon’s Town Hall to celebrate Republic Day, but President Aníbal Cavaco Silva did not join them. His office stated that he had to “focus on reflecting on decisions to be taken in the next few days” – an understandable excuse. The election results showed that the incumbent government had won but had fallen short of the 116 seats needed to form a majority in the 230-seat Parliament.

The governing coalition, which includes Passos Coelho’s own Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the right-wing CDS-PP, held onto power in the polls despite having implemented unpopular austerity policies. The weak victory was assisted by an improving economy. Passos Coelho’s coalition went into the elections having raised taxes while cutting public spending but argued during the campaign that the country was beginning to see the fruits of those measures with a gradual return to growth after three years of recession. 

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