The Socialist Party lost municipalities from north to south, more importantly, the main urban centres of Lisbon, Oporto, Coimbra, Faro, Setubal, Cascais and Sintra. Following this colossal defeat, the Prime Minister has decided to present his resignation, which should take place in the coming days when he is received by president Jorge Sampaio.
Behind the result is a growing lack of confidence in a government which is losing direction and has lost its power of communication with the people. State budgets which are systematically approved only due to the intervention of an independent candidate, whose local municipality is benefited in return for his vote, are one example of an apparent inability to make and apply policy.
Should Antonio Guterres resign as leader of the party and bide his time for the next presidential elections in 2005, he will leave a vacuum which will be difficult to fill. In this scenario, ex-Foreign Minister Durao Barroso, the leader of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats (PSD), would be the probable next Prime Minister.
However, Durao Barroso’s capacity to shine in front of the TV cameras and at political rallies is weak. Much stronger as a leading figure for the PSD is the eternal rival for the position of party leader, Pedro Santana Lopes. Young, dynamic, an action man, a heart throb for the women, this intelligent and articulate lawyer is a brilliant orator and has an excellent relationship with the camera.
His main problem is that his brilliant campaign led him to be the Mayor of Lisbon, beating the Socialist Joao Soares, son of the former President Mario Soares. In his campaign, Santana Lopes had declared that he intended to stay for the full term of four years, after a successful period as Mayor of Figueira da Foz.
Neither he, nor Durao Barroso, expected the scenario to be so good and now both of these politicians, and their party, is posed with a question which will be resolved at the next party congress in February. Santana Lopes, however, may have a possible escape route: the Council of Lisbon is split with 8 Social democrats (his party), eight Socialists and one Popular party councillor. It is this one, the prickly Paulo Portas, who could create the conditions for Santana not to be able to govern the Council, giving him the possibility to present his resignation and present his candidacy for the party leadership.
Despite having less Councils than the PSD, the Socialists obtained more of the vote. The final figures were 131 Councils for the PSD, 98 for the Socialists (PS), 27 for the Communists, 12 for a coalition between the PSD and the Popular party (PP), 3 for the PP and 1 for the Left Block. Four other councils went to independent candidates.
As for votes, the PS had 34.38%, the PSD 28.57%, the Communists (CDU) 10.6%, the PP 3.77% and the Left Block 1.8%. The Communist Party consolidated its position as the third main party in Portugal, but their influence in their traditional agricultural and urban heartlands of the south of the country is waning.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru