By Len Port
António Costa has resigned as Portugal’s prime minister amid suspicions of corruption in his administration’s handling of lithium mining and hydrogen projects.
Mr. Costa announced his resignation on Tuesday in a televised statement just hours after prosecutors detained his chief of staff over the corruption allegations.
“The duties of the prime minister are not compatible with any suspicion of my integrity,” he told to a televised press conference. “In these circumstances, I have presented my resignation to the President of the Republic.”
The prime minister has met with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to inform him of his decision. He said his conscience was clear, but he would not stand for a fourth term as prime minister and leader of Portugal’s Socialist Party.
Reiterating that he totally trusts the justice system, he said, “I want to say eye to eye to the Portuguese that my conscience is clear of any illicit or censured act.”
It is now up to President de Sousa to decide if parliament with its current Socialists majority must step down and make way for a new general election.
This comes at an awkward time as parliament is due to vote on Portugal’s 2024 budget later this month.
In addition to Mr. Costa’s chief of staff, Vitor Escaria, four other people, including a business consultant, have been detained, according to the prosecutor’s office. They are due to appear shortly before a judge.
More than 40 searches have reportedly been carried out in several government offices, including that of the infrastructure and environment minister João Galamba.
This developing story will be updated.
António Costa, a career politician, graduated studied law and political science at the University of Lisbon, and became a lawyer in 1988. He been in the office of prime minister since November 26, 2015, after serving three terms (2007-2015) as mayor of Lisbon. He has served as Minister of Parliamentary Affairs (1997 to 1999), Minister of Justice (1999-2002), and Minister of State and Internal Administration (2005-2007). He was elected as Secretary-General of the Portuguese Socialist Party (PS) in September 2014. He was born on July 17, 1961, in Lisbon, of parents from Goa, a former Portuguese colony in India.
Len Port, born in Northern Ireland, worked as a news reporter and correspondent, mainly in Hong Kong and South Africa, before moving to Portugal many years ago.