Portugal Rebelo de Sousa predicted in 2022 that he would call early elections if Costa resigned: "It will not be easy to replace that face"

After the corruption investigation and the earthquake that has left Portugal without a prime minister, a totally unexpected political crisis with an uncertain ending begins

Portugal Rebelo de Sousa predicted in 2022 that he would call early elections if Costa resigned: "It will not be easy to replace that face"

After the corruption investigation and the earthquake that has left Portugal without a prime minister, a totally unexpected political crisis with an uncertain ending begins. The President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who this Wednesday met separately with the leaders of the eight parties with parliamentary representation, can call immediate early elections or instruct the Socialist Party to appoint one of the ministers of the current Government as interim prime minister, since he has an absolute majority.

However, after the meetings that lasted until late on Wednesday, everything pointed to an early electoral call, but not immediately, but rather after the approval of the Portuguese Budget, which has already passed its first vote and would be definitively approved on the 29th. of November.

This was the center of a large part of the conversations held this Wednesday by the Portuguese head of state. The leader of the main opposition party, the center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD), Luís Montenegro, assured after leaving the Belem palace that he "would not put any obstacle" to the call for early elections being delayed for those 20 days. . "The public investments of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, the salary update of public employees and pensions are at stake," Montenegro admitted.

This delay in the call, which some of the political spokespersons have requested, would mean that the elections will probably not be held until February or March.

The electoral advance has been on the president's mind for a long time. It was Rebelo de Sousa who marked the path to follow on March 30, 2022 in the investiture speech of the resigned António Costa: "Now that he has won, and he has done so for four and a half years," he told him, "I am sure that your excellency knows that it will not be easy for that face, that face that won the elections so unquestionably and so remarkably, to be replaced by another halfway."

The Portuguese head of state predicted 20 months ago what no one imagined: that Costa could resign halfway through his term. And he announced that the most appropriate thing would be, in that case, to call early elections, since Costa governed thanks to a historic absolute majority that he achieved after a very personal campaign based on the prestige of his own figure.

António Costa resigned on Tuesday as Prime Minister after eight years at the head of the Portuguese Government and as soon as the Prosecutor's Office announced that the Supreme Court has opened a separate case against him to investigate him for alleged corruption in the awarding of lithium exploitations and green hydrogen plants.

The socialist leader kept his reputation intact, especially abroad. Not in vain, he was one of the leaders of the European Socialist Party and the only one who governed with an absolute majority besides the president of Malta. In recent months, he had even been suggested as a possible president of the European Council.

In announcing his resignation, Costa defended his innocence and argued that he was resigning "to preserve the dignity of the institutions."

In the meetings that Rebelo de Sousa held this Wednesday with the eight parties with parliamentary representation, the majority requested the immediate calling of elections. This was clearly done by the centre-right, the radical right and the Left Bloc (the second, third and fourth parties in Portugal). Even the leader of Chega, André Ventura, the emerging formation of the hard right equivalent to Vox, told Rebelo that not calling elections would be "a fraud" and "a great betrayal, but not to the parties, but to his own word." two years ago", in reference to the cited speech. The Left Bloc, which governed in coalition with Costa in the first legislature, also believes that "the only solution" is to call elections "quickly."

Luís Montenegro, head of the opposition, now has before him a golden opportunity to put an end to the leftist cycle that Portugal began in 2015 with the first Costa Government, a coalition of the Socialist Party (PS), the Left Bloc and the Communist Party. For Montenegro, "the circumstances justify giving the Portuguese people the floor."

The PS, which has been left completely headless and has not yet come out of the shock, did not speak out and said it was prepared for all options. The socialists no longer have a leader and would have to search desperately for a candidate if the elections were called. The figures most talked about to be the socialist candidate are the Minister of the Presidency, Mariana Vieira da Silva; the former Minister of Infrastructure, who represents the left wing of the party, Pedro Nuno Santos, Mario Centeno, governor of the Bank of Portugal, or the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos.

In any case, analysts and the Portuguese media now give the leader of the center-right, Luis Montenegro, as a favorite in future elections, due to the crisis in which the PS has sunk, with several ministers indicted, and because it would be easier for him to reach an agreement. with Liberal Initiative and with Chega than the socialists with the parties on their left.

In the last 20 months of absolute majority, the Costa Government has had a very bad relationship with the Left Bloc and the communists, in addition to having clashed with the unions. For this reason, in the PS Pedro Nuno wins as a candidate, who would be the only one who could reissue a pact like Costa's in 2015, when he did not manage to be the most voted force, but he did achieve the majority in the Assembly thanks to his agreement coalition.

Rebelo de Sousa has called the Council of State for this Thursday. Later, late in the afternoon, he plans to announce the decision that will mark the future of Portugal and, in part, of socialism in Europe in the coming years.