What about the future of the “small miracle on the Atlantic”

  • Reinhard Naumann
  • 10 October 2019

The parliamentary elections on 6 October brought a victory for Prime Minister António Costa and his Socialist Party (PS) who achieved the victory, but without the wanted majority.

As expected, the parliamentary elections on 6 October brought a victory for PM António Costa and his Socialist Party (PS) who achieved a strong relative majority. Right after the elections Mr Costa stated that the Portuguese “liked the ‘geringonça'” and that they “want the continuity” of the current political solution, that is the continuity of a PS-minority government supported by a parliamentary alliance between PS and the wider Left.

The PS has strongly benefitted from the four years of government with the support of the radical Left, its partners did not. The Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda) got away with minor losses in votes (from 10,2% to 9.7%) and maintained the number of its parliamentary seats (19) while the Communist Party’s electoral coalition CDU suffered serious losses, going down from 8.2% to 6.5% of the votes and from 17 to 12 seats.

In this perspective, it is no surprise that António Costa invited the Left Bloc, the Communist Party, the party Persons-Animals-Nature (PAN) and the centre-left party LIVRE to have talks about a common project for the next legislature. It was also not unexpected that the coordinator of the Left Bloc, Ms Catarina Martins, declared her party’s preparedness for another term of cooperation, and that the Communist Party is not willing to continue the experience.

The motivation of the Left Bloc to offer the possibility of a renewal of the alliance with the PS is probably based on the assessment that a large part of its electorate demands that the party definitely breaks with the unfortunate tradition of irreconcilable conflict between the different parts of the Left. The Left Bloc’s leadership may be not too worried about the slight loss of votes because its electorate is very young, in contrast to the Socialist and Communist voters whose age is far above the average.

Will the talks produce a renewed “geringonça”? An alliance between PS and Left Bloc would have a comfortable majority and could guarantee stability for four years, but it will not be easy for the Socialists and the “Bloquistas” to draw up a new and inevitably more ambitious agenda for the legislature. Based on its strong position in Parliament, the PS may not be willing to make the necessary concessions to get the Left Block on board. But governing with changing majorities is a risky business and the Socialists do still have bad memories of the fall of the minority governments under PM António Guterres in 2001 and under PM José Sócrates in 2011.

The Portuguese Left is facing the challenge to renew the confidence it earnt during the past four years in large parts of the population, a difficult task that can only be accomplished if the participating forces perceive the definition and implementation of a common strategy is in the self-interest of each one of them.

  • Reinhard Naumann
  • Representative of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Portugal