Portugal swears in fragile government
Wednesday, April 03, 2024       03:14 WIB

Lisbon, April 2, 2024 (AFP)
Portugal's new centre-right government was on Tuesday sworn in with the narrowest of parliamentary margins, squeezed between the outgoing Socialists and an ascendent far right.
Luis Montenegro -- who squeaked out a victory in March 10 elections -- took an oath as prime minister along with his 17 ministers in front of conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
The ceremony brought an end to eight years of rule by Socialist governments run by Antonio Costa, who resigned in November and decided not to run again after being named in an influence peddling scandal.
His 51-year-old successor Montenegro last week presented his cabinet, which has many seasoned politicians who, like him, lack government experience.
"We are not interested in sterile political exercises," said a defiant Montenegro, who called on the opposition to show a sense of responsibility during his tenure.
"This government is not here on holiday, nor to do what is easiest," he added.
Montenegro and his Democratic Alliance (AD) took 28.9 percent of the vote and won 80 seats, just squeaking by the Socialists (PS) on 28 percent and 78 seats.
- 'Government accord' -
Well short of the 116 deputies needed for a majority, Montenegro decided to form a minority government without the support of the far-right Chega ("Enough") party -- which emerged as the country's third force by taking 18.1 percent of the vote and going from 12 to 50 seats.
Montenegro insisted throughout the campaign he would never form an alliance with nor accept the support of Chega, a party founded in 2019 by Andre Ventura, a law professor who made his name as a polemist on football television shows.
"This government is here to govern the four and a half years of the legislature," the prime minister said on Tuesday, appealing to the sense of responsibility of the entire opposition.
The parliament's fragmentation almost led to an impasse last month and the Democratic Alliance had to cut a last-minute deal with the Socialists to elect a speaker.
The next obstacle for Montenegro is the presentation of the government programme that will be debated in parliament next week.
"Not rejecting the government's programme does not represent a blank cheque, but this should not represent a bounced cheque either," said Montenegro, indicating that he was counting on cooperation with the Socialists rather than the far-right.
Montenegro "has chosen the PS as a speaker and it is with the PS that he has to come to an understanding," said Ventura.
- 'Popular or responsible' -
The government will have to resign if its programme cannot survive a parliamentary vote, but the new Socialist leader Pedro Nuno Santos has ruled out that scenario.
"Be popular or responsible", is the dilemma facing the new prime minister, according to Diana Ramos, the editor-in-chief of business daily Jornal de Negocios.
While he is inheriting a budget surplus of 1.2 percent of GDP, "any permanent spending increase, which Montenegro may be tempted to undertake to increase his popularity, would be bad news for the Portuguese," she wrote Monday.
The government could try to raise the salaries of certain public servants, such as teachers and the police, to gain an advantage over the Socialists and the far-right and dissuade them from pushing for new elections.
Even if the president cannot dissolve parliament for another six months, Montenegro still has not explained how he plans to pass the 2025 state budget, which is essential to carry out whatever programme he presents.

Sumber : AFP