Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Voting down Portugals coup

Last month, Portugal went to the polls, giving a Parliamentary majority to a left-wing Socialist-Communist-Left Bloc coalition. But rather than allowing the winners of the election to form a government, Portugal's conservative president attempted a legal coup by re-appointing the loser, Pedro Passos Coelho, as Prime Minister.

Today, that loser's "government" was inevitably ousted in a confidence vote:

A surprise alliance of leftwing parties with a mission to “turn the page” on austerity has ousted Portugal’s centre-right government barely 11 days after it took power.

The moderate centre-left Socialist party forged an unprecedented alliance with the smaller Communist party and the radical Left Bloc, linked to Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza party, and used a parliamentary vote on policy to force the government to resign on Tuesday.

The Socialist leader, António Costa, 54, is now expected to become prime minister in the coming weeks with a broad, leftwing coalition government, which hopes to ease austerity while still adhering to European Union rules.

There's a few problems with this - the alliance isn't a "surprise", but one that had been offered to voters and won a majority at election time. And while we'd all expect the Socialist leader, or someone with the backing of that coalition, to become Prime Minister, Portugal's crazy constitution does not actually require it. Portugal's anti-democratic President, who has made it clear that he opposes any government which might roll back austerity on "stability" grounds, could simply re-appoint Coelho again as a caretaker pending elections next year - effectively, force the Portuguese people to vote until they get it right. So, we now get to wait and see whether Portugal's President will respect democracy - or effectively declare himself a dictator.

But whatever the outcome, Portugal clearly needs constitutional change to limit the power of the president and ensure that this anti-democratic outrage never happens again.