Portugal faces snap elections
Wednesday 25 January 1995
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.
- 1 Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
- 2 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 3 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
- 4 News agency criticised for describing Amal Clooney as 'actor's wife' in coverage of human rights trial
- 5 David De Gea to Real Madrid: Real finally get their man with £29m bid for Manchester United goalkeeper
Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Turkey duped the US, and Isis reaps rewards
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...
£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...
£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...