António Costa, who resigned on November 7, will remain prime minister until early elections in March 2024.
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Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, leader of the Socialist Party, announced on Tuesday, November 7, his resignation. This announcement comes in the wake of accusations of corruption, embezzlement and influence peddling, particularly regarding the rights to extract lithium and produce hydrogen in northern Portugal.
Declining popularity and frequent scandals
António Costa has been Prime Minister and Head of the Portuguese Government since 2015. His election came after Parliament voted no confidence in the former Prime Minister of the centre-right Social Democratic Party. This lack of trust leads to the Socialist Party coming to power, led by Antonio Costa, who was re-elected in the 2019 elections and forms a coalition with the left and the Communist Party. In the Portuguese political system, elections are held every 4 years, but at the end of 2021, the Left Bloc coalition failed to pass the finance bill. This failure will lead to early elections in January 2022.
During the 2022 elections, the Socialist Party led by Antonio Costa emerged victorious with a large majority, which allowed it to ensure the stability of the government since it obtained an absolute majority in Parliament. But during these elections, the right-wing populist “Chiga” party (“Enough!”) won 13 seats, compared to only one seat in the previous elections.
Since the last elections, the Socialist Party has faced several scandals, most notably the TAPgate (Portuguese airline) scandal in the first half of 2023. This scandal led to the resignation of several ministers and foreign ministers. But also a decline in the Socialist Party’s popularity, going from 40% of voting intention at the time of the January 2022 elections, to 30% a year later. At the beginning of November 2023, the vote share for the Socialist Party was 24%, close with the Conservative Party (PSD), to which President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa belongs.
Crisis management and the resignation of the Prime Minister
Three days after the Prime Minister announced his resignation, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa spoke. He announced the organization of legislative elections on March 10, 2024, that is, two years before the elections scheduled in the official calendar.
In his announcement, the President announced that the State Council, which holds an advisory role, proposed holding a lottery to choose the next prime minister. While the Socialist Party requested that it be able to choose another candidate within its party. President De Souza rejected both proposals, stating that the Prime Minister would lack the legitimacy to “People’s eyes“He therefore prefers to follow the proposal of the opposition parties, especially the proposal of his party, the Social Democratic Party, by organizing elections in the spring to give the different parties time to prepare.
During this period, António Costa will continue to carry out his duties as Prime Minister, despite the searches that took place in his home and the homes of some of his ministers and the accusation of the Minister of Infrastructure.
Consequences for Portuguese political stability
António Costa is one of the only socialist heads of government in Europe. Organizing elections in the spring certainly makes it possible to temporarily ensure the country’s stability, but it also allows various political groups to prepare, in particular the populist party “Chiga”, which is climbing in the polls. Indeed, at the beginning of November, 13% of Portuguese intended to vote for this party, compared to only 7% in the last elections held in January 2022.
Elected party officials Shiga They have already introduced themselves with posters.” Chiga de Korobcao » (The End of Corruption) in April 2023 and regularly denounces the corruption of the Portuguese elites. This scandal affecting the Portuguese Socialist Party risks boosting Chiga’s popularity and plunging Portugal into political uncertainty between the rise of the far right and the potential for political instability.