Portugal faces snap elections

The President of Portugal, Mario Soares, is to decide shortly whether or not to dissolve parliament and call early general elections, following Monday's surprise announcement by the Prime Minister, Anibal Cavaco Silva, that he was stepping down as leaderof the centre-right Social Democrat Party (PSD).

Mr Cavaco Silva, ending months of political suspense, said he would stand down as Prime Minister at the next elections, due in October. "I have argued for the need for renewal in the PSD," he said on Monday, "and I want to be the first to give a good example." He attributed his decision to "personal and family reasons" but assured his compatriots he would stay until his term ends.

It is thought that Mr Cavaco Silva has his eyes on Portugal's presidential contest next year and has decided to withdraw from the front line to avoid being harmed should his party suffer electoral defeat before then. Opinion polls suggest the Social Democrats are unlikely to win a third term and the opposition Socialists will win the largest proportion of votes. In the latest poll, 44.8 per cent said they would vote Socialist and 39.8 per cent Social Democrat. The Socialists' leader, Antonio Guterres, has been calling for elections to be brought forward to June.

Portugal enjoyed nearly 10 years of stability under Mr Cavaco Silva, but his leadership was weakened recently by government scandals. The most serious is the revelation last week that a Defence Ministry company repaired a pair of helicopter engines for the armed forces of Indonesia, a country with which Portugal severed diplomatic relations in 1975 after its invasion of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor.

For 20 years, Portugal spearheaded an international campaign against the Jakarta regime and in support of self-determination for East Timor. The revelation that Indonesian engines were repaired in Portuguese air force workshops in 1993 - months after Indonesian troops massacred peaceful demonstrators in the Timorese capital, Dili - prompted Portugal's three main opposition parties this week to demand the resignation of the Defence Minister, Fernando Nogueira.

Another row simmers over Portuguese military assistance to Angola, contravening the terms of neutrality under which Lisbon participates in the UN contact group on the country.

Under Mr Cavaco Silva's rule, Portuguese inflation dropped from an annual rate of 30 per cent to below 5 per cent, and unemployment, at 5.5 per cent, is one of the lowest in Europe. His iron grip on public spending and his Thatcherite pursuit of the freemarket won him support among those who feared the helter-skelter politics ushered in by the "carnation revolution" of 1974.

The Prime Minister is one of Europe's longest serving heads of government, outstripped only by Helmut Kohl and Felipe Gonzalez. He made no great effort to make friends, however, and was particularly cool with journalists.

Mr Cavaco Silva's decision has thrown the ruling party into a leadership crisis, since there are no clear successors. Mr Nogueira, his deputy, was the obvious choice but his chances now appear to have been dashed. The young Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, could be a contender, but intense in-fighting is likely to precede the party's national congress in mid-February.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments