Portuguese American Journal

Opinion | Problems loom for Portugal’s new parliament – Len Port

Portugal’s center-right Prime Minister-elect, Luis Montenegro, revealed on Thursday his cabinet emerging from the Democratic Alliance (AD) coalition, including the center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) and two lesser right-leaning parties. The coalition which received 28.8% of the vote won 80 seats in the 230-seat parliament.

The government’s agenda is to be debated in parliament on the 11th and 12th April. This has been announced by the assembly speaker, Pedro Aguiar-Branco who was chosen this week but only after three failed voting sessions when the 230 members elected on March 10 managed to agree.

The AD alliance led by the Social Democratic Party (PSD) with its 80 seats, and the Socialist Party (PS) with 78,  eventually compromised by agreeing to a rotating speaker arrangement in which the PSD’s Aguiar-Branco will be in office for two years and then replaced by a PS speaker. 

Before the opening session of the new parliament, it was clear that instability looms for the center-right Democratic Alliance (AD), which will try to rule with a very small majority.

The far-right Chega (CH) party, which quadrupled its seats since the last parliament to 50, has already been showing opposition that could prove to be paralyzing for the mainstream parties.

Andre Ventura, the founder and leader of Chega (Enough), has been seeking a long-term deal with the PSD/AD coalition but Prime Minister Luis Montenegro has repeatedly rejected such far-right cooperation in return for support.   

The new parliament faces massive challenges to bring stability to Portugal, which is regarded as among Europe’s poorest nations, despite strong growth since 2015 under repeated PS governments.

The coalition, possibly with PS support, will have to try and improve low wage levels, the ongoing housing crisis, severe problems within the national health service, and the country’s ever-present corruption activities.

The new parliament is likely to be the most fragmented since the Carnation Revolution of 25th April 1974, when the coup by left-leaning military officers ended 48 years of dictatorship. The revolution turned Portugal’s focus from its colonial wars and fading worldwide empire, to joining the many democracies on the European continent.  

Portugal now remains a peaceful country and a dedicated member of the European Union. It is not surprising, even though it has shocked many, that the Chega party has followed similar success among populist groups in several other European countries including Germany, Italy, Sweden, Poland, and Spain, instigated among other things by the failure to control the influx of migrants properly.   

Chega appeals to many Portuguese younger voters as well as some of the older generations who have fond memories of the pre-revolution Salazar dictatorship days. They are dissatisfied with mainstream politicians and want the sort of basic changes that Andre Ventura is espousing.

He has been deeply critical of things ranging from road tolls to political cronyism, “50 years of corruption” and “50 years of taxes to support parasites.” He has called his party “the last hope.”

Luis Montenegro’s Democratic Alliance government, which includes 10 men and 7 women, will take office next Tuesday, April 2, following Portugal’s most hotly contested legislative election since the Carnation Revolution 50 years ago, barely a month before the country marks the anniversary of the revolution that established democracy. Let’s see…

Updated 03/30/24   


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.


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