One week before the legislative elections in Portugal, the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) calls for orthodox and reformist Communists to unite as left and right face each other with 50% each in the opinion polls.
Football has dominated this election campaign. In a country where football is front-page news of even the erudite newspapers on many occasions, the coming of Euro 2004 and the bickering between the local authorities and the football clubs has dominated the past few weeks. In this small country, no less than 10 stadiums are to be built to host the Euro 2004 championship and suddenly, municipalities have discovered that they might not be able to pay.
With the spectre of historic enemy Spain snatching the championship from across the border, nationalistic spirits run high. The mayor of Oporto, Rui Rio, had to be escorted out of the city to spend the weekend in an undisclosed place due to the fact that his decision to alter the plans for the construction of FC Porto’s new stadium had gained the hostility of FC Porto president, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, and the fans of the club.
The mayor of Oporto is a member of the main opposition party, PSD (Social Democrats), currently leading the polls. The issue was taken up by the Socialist Party (PS, in government), while the president of Benfica, after a dinner, made a ridiculous claim that it was the official policy of Benfica football club to support the PSD.
In this fiery mixture of football and politics, the Communist Party and the Bloco de Esquerda (Left Block) present themselves as the two serious parties offering serious alternatives. The PCP General Secretary, Carlos Carvalhas (Kar-VA-li-ash), has called on the Portuguese people not to abstain (opinion polls predict a 50% abstention) even though the policies, and politics, of the Socialists in the last six years and the PSD for eight years before them are discredited due to rampant corruption and incompetence from both parties.
Political clientelism is rife and jobs for the boys is the rule of the day. Those with good memories will remember the years between 1991 and 1995 as being a disgrace for the image of Portuguese politics and politicians alike, with the second PSD government of Prime Minister Cavaco Silva. So ruinous was the image of the party that its leader resigned in embarrassment. The Socialists have done little more to improve the image of the political class. Institutions were set up with public money, one of which has only two employees, who earn ridiculously high salaries compared with the national average of 635 USD per month, and do nothing.
It is in this climate that Carlos Carvalhas urges the reformist element within the Communist Party, who want a change of dialogue to adapt to new times, to join the conservatives in the Central Committee in the fight against the right. Presenting an image of unity, he declared that “Many people will abstain because they are tired of politicians (from the PS and PSD)…Your vote is a means to reward or punish politicians”.
Criticising the PS for its policy of privatisations, Carlos Carvalhas said that “We have a secretary of state in the PS who declares that he drinks a glass of champagne with every privatisation. His luck is that they are spaced out, otherwise he would enter into an alcoholic coma”. The Portuguese Communist Party is the only one which represents the Portuguese proletariat and which presents viable alternatives for policy.
Excellent at the local government level, where even members of the PS and PSD vote for them, the Communists are still plagued by the image of a party which never wins the elections. In this election, with the slogan “Change for the better, a stronger CDU”, the Portuguese Communist Party, together with the Green Party (forming the CDU, Unitary Democratic Coalition), the Communists stand as a credible alternative after years of centre-left and centre-right incompetence, incoherence, corruption and plain disrespect for the inhabitants of the country.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru