Portugal's Socialists `Hope' to Sign Accords for Government

  • Socialists, Left Bloc, Communists may block Coelho government
  • Opposition leader Costa wants to lead alternative government

Portuguese Socialist leader Antonio Costa will try to sign separate agreements with the three other left-wing parties in parliament to get backing for a Socialist government that would replace Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s administration.

Talks with the Left Bloc, Communists and Greens have been concluded and they agreed on some matters to include in a government program, Costa said Friday night in an interview with television station SIC. He said he still doesn’t have guarantees that these parties would back a Socialist government during a full four-year term, and reaffirmed he’ll only block Coelho’s government if the Socialists can offer an alternative.

“We’re still working on ensuring that there is stability during the government’s term in office,” Costa said. “It’s not easy. There are deep differences between each of these parties on important matters. I hope to sign three distinct agreements.”

Social Democratic Prime Minister 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. The Socialists, Left Bloc and Communists combined now have a majority of seats in parliament.

Some Socialists, including European Parliament member Francisco Assis, oppose Costa’s plan to form a government relying on backing from the Left Bloc, which has said it wants to restructure the country’s debt, and from the Communists, who have said Portugal should prepare to exit the euro.

Tuesday Vote

Costa’s government plan includes a gradual increase in the minimum wage and a proposal to study changing income tax brackets. The budget deficit is expected to be lower than 3 percent of gross domestic product through 2019, according to the program. The Socialist leader said he doesn’t have to ask the Communists to agree with the planned path for the deficit.

The Socialist Party’s National Commission on Saturday approved Costa’s proposed government program, an official at the party said by telephone. Costa reaffirmed earlier on Saturday that negotiations are still ongoing about having conditions in place to allow a government to last a full term.

The Socialists’ Political Commission meets on Sunday to assess if those conditions that would ensure stability are in place, and will then tell the parliamentary group if it should or shouldn’t present a motion to reject Coelho’s government program, Costa said.

Lawmakers will start discussing the Coelho government’s program on Monday. The government will fall if its program is rejected by a majority in parliament in a vote scheduled for Tuesday. President Anibal Cavaco Silva, who has the power to name prime ministers, would then decide if he’ll ask Costa to form a government.

Parliament can’t be dissolved less than six months after it’s elected, according to the constitution. The ruling coalition parties took 107 of the 230 seats in parliament in the Oct. 4 election, including 89 for Coelho’s Social Democrats. The Socialists have 86 members of parliament, while the Left Bloc and Communists hold 19 and 15 seats, respectively. The Greens have two lawmakers.

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