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
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn