Portugal's Coelho Keeps Finance Minister for Minority Government

  • Socialists, Left Bloc, Communists may block new government
  • Opposition leader wants to form an alternative government

Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho will keep Maria Luis Albuquerque as finance minister in a new government that might be blocked by opposition parties that now hold a majority of seats in parliament.

Paulo Portas, leader of the conservative junior coalition party CDS, will stay as vice premier, and Luis Morais Leitao will become economy minister, the presidency said on its website. The new government will be sworn in on Friday.

Maria Luis Albuquerque
Maria Luis Albuquerque
Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

Social Democratic Premier Coelho on Oct. 4 won the most seats in the first general election since 2011, though his coalition fell short of the majority it had in the past four years when Portugal completed a bailout program. Socialist opposition leader Antonio Costa last week said he could form a stable government backed by a majority in parliament including the Left Bloc and the Communist Party that would be an alternative to a new term under Coelho.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva said in a televised address on Thursday night that parliament will have the “final word” on whether Coelho can go ahead with his second term. The president said no guarantees were presented for ”a stable, lasting and credible alternative solution” to a Coelho government.

The Socialists reaffirmed on Friday that they won’t let a new coalition government pass in parliament as they can offer an alternative backed by a majority. Costa will conclude an agreement with the Left Bloc and the Communists to have an alternative government solution, the Socialist Party said.

‘Serious Agreement’

Left Bloc leader Catarina Martins said on Oct. 20 that another day or two were needed to have a “serious agreement” with the Socialist Party. No agreement has been presented so far. The Left Bloc has said it wants to restructure the country’s debt and the Communists have said Portugal should prepare to exit the euro.

Socialist leader Costa, who has proposed narrowing the deficit slightly slower than Coelho, says he would comply with Portugal’s EU commitments. Since losing the 2011 election after requesting the bailout, the Socialists voted alongside the ruling coalition on policies including the European Stability Mechanism treaty.

Portugal is no stranger to forming minority governments, though they tend to be short-lived. It’s more than 15 years since Socialist leader Antonio Guterres led the only minority government in Portugal to survive a full term since 1974, when a four-decade dictatorship ended.

Parliament can’t be dissolved less than six months after it’s elected, according to the constitution. The ruling parties took 107 of the 230 seats in parliament in the Oct. 4 election. The Socialists have 86 members of parliament, while the Left Bloc and the Communists hold 19 and 17 seats, respectively.

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