Naming the monster

There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding the task of christening the left parliament majority. Some call it “left coalition”, but that makes no sense since: a) it’s not a coalition and, b) it’s rather unlikely that they ever – I mean ever — aggregate, collate, unite, you pick the verb.

To make things worse, Bloco de Esquerda – literally ‘Left Bloc’ -, as the name implies, and although not a coalition, is already an amalgam of different misfits that evolved from far-left djembe banging maniacs into far-left djembe percussionists in search of an Euro-fado-dance band. They are also very rooted in the thriving bourgeoisie of the 1960s, as the kids of urbane and very urban traditional families. They had the chance to write pitiful neoromantic poetry at their universities and wiggle their heads with counterfeit gloominess from repetitive listenings of Joy Division’s Closer, a real treaty in Portuguese politics, whereas the rest of the kids were picking their noses at the cold yet thriving textile mills. Bloco de Esquerda is quintessential Lisbonesque.

Partido Comunista Português, the Portuguese Communist Party, was never a contender for the election. They’re always members of a coalition, CDU – Coligação Democrática Unitária – Unitary Democratic Coalition (oh, the irony!), a mixture of the Marxist-Leninist communists with a lemon twist of an ecologist party which also never ran for elections. In fact, the ecologists are more of a trick in order to get more speaking time in parliament for the communists. Yes, they’re an ecologist party, but you never to listen to them talking about trees or weird stuff like real ecologists do.

So, how do you name a coalition that will never exist and which is to be comprised of another coalition and an amalgam of pretty bourgeoises with nice hair and an handful of Twitter accounts? You can call them foolish; I call them hazardous.

Open letter to Mr. Pritchard of The Telegraph

Dear Mr. Pritchard,

This thing is out of hand. I can understand your stance against the EU, the euro, your integrity and whatever it is that keeps you fuelling the confusion between British euroskepticism and any cause that may propel this idea, regardless of how lateral it may be.

The British public is uninformed about the Portuguese political system, which is fine since Portugal is just a small European country, not an economical driving force or a cultural mammoth in a globalised world. I don’t know much about the Hungarian or the Polish system either. Nevertheless, publishing misleading information to propel the euroskeptic cause is harmful and plain wrong.

There are euroskeptics in Portugal too. People that believe that the EU concept is wrong, that the euro is flawed, that the bureaucrats are grim, and that the whole thing is the hyper-statist mess we’ve been dreading ever since Lady Thatcher fathom that that’s what it would become. Why would you then choose to align with the position of Marxists-Leninists (not an insult, it’s how they describe themselves) if there’s a center- and right-wing conservative nucleus of euroskeptics ready to help you understand the intricacies of the Portuguese political system?

You proved yourself wrong with Syriza, will prove yourself wrong with the Portuguese inexistent Left Coalition – which you believe won the election – and, most likely, will prove yourself wrong again with the Spanish Podemos next December. There is a huge community of British expats in Spain – I personally know more than a dozen, living in Andalusia, owners of property and integral driving forces of local economies. Under Podemos they will be heavily taxed as full members of ‘the rich’ club, as identified by the smooth talking and iPad-bearing communists. Their MacBooks are already full throttle with silly manifests including lots of words like ‘the people’, ‘the rich’, ‘the oppression’, ‘neoliberals’, ‘imperialism’, and other dialectics-prone keywords within the Historical Materialist framework.

Euroskepticism and Eurodenial shouldn’t give in to marxist dialectics in order to thrive. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Mr. Pritchard, your are entitled to your opinion, just don’t try to pass it as factual, as it is not. You can’t escape the EU-soviet-like-bloc by creating another soviet-like-bloc.


The Red Threat strikes again?


After losing the general elections that took place last week, the Socialist party seems determined to get the hold of power through unnatural coalitions with other left-wing parties. If you’re from the North of Europe this won’t sound that obnoxious. After all, countries such as Denmark or Finland have been governed by grand coalitions including parties from the left to the right. Except for one relevant detail. The coalition the Socialist party is proposing involves a trotskyist and a marxist-leninist party that have been very blunt regarding the role of Portugal in the Euro and in the European Union: out.

Now, even if they drop these radical proposals, thereby reducing the ideological distance to the Socialist party (which, after all, endorsed joining the EU and Euro), there will still be consequences. As part of the bargaining that is taking place, they may well demand disastrous conditions for giving the green light, possibly generating turmoil in the markets or in any reasonable person for that matter, at least one who remembers the outcome of radical left-wing experiments.

There is plenty of reason to worry. It takes a lot of time to push important reforms, and it took significant effort from the Portuguese people to put their public finances back in shape again. And all it takes, as Greece has witnessed, is a couple of months to throw it all away. This could well do it.

Did the radical left really achieve a good election result in Portugal?

Short answer: no.

It is hard to declare winners in an election where the government coalition lost its majority in parliament and the Socialist Party lost what some months ago was declared as the easiest elections of all times. But in one thing most political commentators seem to agree. The left bloc, a coalition of radical left movements similar to Syriza had a great day. Against all opinion polls, the Left Bloc was third in the election, getting more MPs than all but the 2 major parties in the country. They also almost doubled 2011’s score.

But look closer and you will see defeat. In the graph below, you can see the results of the other radical left parties belonging to the same european political family in the 4 peripheral countries that suffered more with austerity. (For Portugal and Greece we can see the results of the recent elections and for Ireland and Spain the latest opinion polls):

Election results and opinion polls in September

Looking at this, you will be surprised to know that when the crisis started the Portuguese Left Bloc was the most popular radical Left party in these 4 countries.

Election results between 2007-2009


Left Bloc’s evolution in election results since the crisis started is tiny, especially when compared with the same evolution in Greece, Ireland and Spain.

Score evolution since beginning of the European crisis

Does this look like a winning party to you?

Portuguese elections: final results

With only a small number of votes still to be counted, here are the final results of the election:

– PàF (right-wing government coalition): 38.6% (107 MPs)
– PS (Socialist Party): 32.4% (86 MPs)
– BE (Left Bloc): 10,2% (19 MPs)
– CDU (Communist Party): 8,3% (17 MPs)
– PAN (People Animals and Nature): 1,4% (1 MP)

BE and CDU have announced they will veto a right-wing minority government, leaving the responsibility of maintaining political stability in the hands of the defeated Socialist Party. The Socialist Party is likely to ensure a government is formed, without taking part of it. It is not likely, however, that the government will stay in power for the full 4 years mandate.

The six graphs that explain what’s affecting the upcoming Portuguese elections

Many wonder why, after reducing public pensions, salaries, among other austerity measures, the government coalition ends the campaign ahead in the polls. Pedro Magalhães, a portuguese political scientist explains why. Here is a summary:

Austerity: after an initial austerity shock, the last 2 years saw a loosening of the austerity belt.


The widely antecipated recessive spiral from the initial austerity measures did not happen (both in unemployment and GDP)



Moral and confidence is increasing, both in terms of confidence in the economy…


…and consumer confidence:


After an initial recovery, the socialist party has failed to keep growing in the polls after the economic recovery started. Most voters do not believe the Socialist Party would have done a better job in the last 4 years.


Worth reading the full article in the Washington Post.

Three large polls released today indicate political instability for the next months

The most comprehensive polls developed in this campaign were released today, 3 days before the election. Interestingly, the three have similar results: Government coalition (center-right) winning but with a left-wing majority in parliament.

If these are to be the final results, there will be a hung parliament with no clear government coalition. Cavaco Silva, the outgoing president, announced that he will break protocol and will not be present in the Republic celebrations on Monday due to the need to solve what is likely to be a very difficult post-election period. The socialist party already announced they would embark in a grand coalition and would prefer to join forces with the left. The left doesn’t seem to be interested in joining government (the communists wouldn’t do in any case and the Left Bloc wants to avoid Syriza’s faith).

Adding to this, there is the real possibility that despite losing the elections, the Socialist Party will elect more MPs than any other party. The government coalition is made of two party running together, but after the elections there will be two party groups in parliament, but potentially smaller than the Socialist Party’s. This adds an additional complication: traditionally, the PM comes from the most voted party who is also the party having the most MPs. This time, as two major parties are running together, the winning list might not include the party with more MPs. There is no precedent of the in Portuguese democratic history.

Interesting days ahead.

Daily polls (9 days to go)

In orange, the government coalition; in pink, the socialist party; in red, the communist party and in black, the left Bloc.

The government coalition continues to lead both daily polls with a 5-7pp advantage over the socialist party. The socialist party leads the Eurosondagem poll (not a daily tracking) by 0.5pp.

Daily polls (11 days to go)

In orange, the government coalition; in pink, the socialist party; in red, the communist party and in black, the left Bloc.



The government coalition continues to lead both polls with a 4-5pp advantage over the socialist party, but still 4-5pp far from the share of the votes needeed for a majority in parliament. Extreme left parties seem to be rising at the expense of the socialist party.