Portugal: New government sworn in

Jose Manuel Durao Barroso becomes the Prime Minister of Portugal, leading a centre-right coalition government between his party, the PSD (Social Democrats) and the conservative PP (People’s Party).

The team led by Durao Barroso, former Foreign Minister of Portugal, is a re-run of the last PSD government of Prof. Cavaco Silva (1991-1995), marked by cases of corruption and one of the most unpopular governments in Portugal’s short history of parliamentary democracy (since the Revolution in 1974, which overthrew the fascist regime of Dr. Marcelo Caetano).

During its seven years in opposition, the PSD never allowed the ruling Socialist Party (PS) any respite to govern. Since the PS did not enjoy a majority in parliament, what it could achieve was always limited. The PS accuses the PSD of irresponsible opposition and promise to be more constructive in their approach, as this party prepares to freshen its image.

Durao Barroso enters government with a discourse of a near state of calamity in public finances, and appoints Manuela Ferreira Leite, an unsuccessful Education Minister in the previous PSD government as Minister of Finance. A sour figure, who does not exude a sympathetic air, her first words were to announce a drastic spending cut in the areas of education, health and social security, setting the tone for the following four years.

The PSD is traditionally a party on an eternal collision course with the real needs of the people of Portugal, the poorest in the European Union and at a particularly important moment when Portugal is especially vulnerable, facing the loss of much-needed structural funds as the EU expands eastwards, Durao Barroso will have to use all his diplomatic skills to finish the course.

Under the spotlight will be the relationship between the two party leaders, Durao Barroso of the PSD and Paulo Portas of the PP, who antagonised many PSD figures with his venomous attacks as the Director of a weekly newspaper, Independente. There are those who feel Portas is a time bomb, waiting to explode, in his eternal quest for power.


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