Analysis of the political crisis in Portugal

My analysis of the complicated political situation in Portugal, published today by Epicenter: Portugal at the crossroads.


Censors are back. Read this while you can

Censorship almost always starts innocuously. A little decision here or there to eradicate what some perceive as derogatory accusations towards something bigger like national security, a seemingly worthy cause, or the essential nourishment of a vicious autocrat. More often than not, the three things combined. At the drop of a hat, what starts as a little nuisance to ease bad press out becomes the best new thing since sliced bread for a horde of card-bearing democrats.

These card-bearing democrats are extremely dangerous. Most of them are nazis who despise the idea of such a vile ideology while, simultaneously and surreptitiously, embracing it. You see, there are always exceptions that would make you turn a blind eye to a little censorship: a cartoonist drawing Muhammad, a guy claiming that the whole moon landing TV broadcast was staged, a politician accused of child molestation, a comedian poking fun of political correctness, newspapers that hurt the People’s Party, etc.

Correio da Manhã is the most successful and best selling Portuguese newspaper. Socialists, of course, call it a callous source of tabloid journalism, therefor, demeaning the huge amount of readers who actually buy it. Nothing new: they also demean the majority who didn’t vote for them to become government. Correio da Manhã was also the only Portuguese newspaper willing to put out information about the former prime-minister Sócrates, his luxurious life in Paris, his House of Bijan shopping sprees, the grotesquely outstanding discrepancy between his declared earnings and the enormous sums of money of his vanity spendings, you know, the normal thing if you live in a normal country with free press. Then Sócrates got arrested and, well, you’d thought that Justice would take its normal course.

Well, it didn’t. Yesterday, a court order stated that a mass media corporation, Cofina, owner of Correio da Manhã, cannot publish any news regarding the former prime-minister and the investigation that will lead to his accusation (read about it here, in Portuguese).

Socialists claim this is not censorship but they’ve yet to come up with a proper sanctioned name for it. So, for the time being, and while we can, let’s call it what people around the free world call it: censorship.

About the “left front” secretive deals

Until now, the socialists or its far-left allies have declined to reveal any details of their agreement. The socialists say it will only be known once the nominated government is overthrown (sometime in the next few weeks). Rumour has it that no comprehensive deal has been achieved (one that guarantees a stable four years government) and only one-off deals have been agreed.

Yesterday, it was rumoured that the socialists wil propose a “golden rule” according to which no wages or pensions cuts and income tax hikes will be made in the next four years. They expect that any eventual  budget deficit overshooting will be met with (an upwards) target revision.

It sure sounds like a solid basis for a successful partnership in the euro area.

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.

What’s next for Portugal?

naom_534af975b6b0eLike it has always happened for the last 40 years of democracy, the Portuguese President asked the leader of the most voted party to form government. Like every president before, he gave a political speech on what he believes the next government should do. He is also far from being the first president to warn about the risks of having communists in power. But, unlike what has always been the democratic tradition, the second most voted party will not allow the most voted party to form a minority government. It is their constitutional right to do so. So what is next? Here is what the future holds for Portugal:

Over the next few weeks:

1. The current PM will form a government with some people of his close group MPs and a few moderate party members. It will be hard to get good names on-board for a government that might not be around for more than 2 weeks
2. The government will not pass in parliament due to the votes of the socialists, left radicals and communists
3. The president will then ask the leader of the 2nd most voted party to form government. The supporters of the idea of a coup in Portugal will be saying some other nonsense about some other country
4. Costa will form a government without members of the radical left or the communists. Radical left and communists let the government pass in parliamentary vote.
5. President Cavaco will warn about the lack of stability of the new solution and once again defend the tradition of the defeated centrist party to allow the other centrist party to lead the government

In November-January:
6. The socialist party will have to get its first budget approved. In order to do so, it will make changes in the labour law (making the labour market rigid) and eliminate some of the expense cuts of previous governments in agrrement with Left Radicals.
7. The first draft will not be approved in Brussels, but after a few rounds and over-optimistic assumptions on growth and tax collections, the budget will be approved in Brussels and by the Portuguese parliament
8. The minimum wage will increase in January
9. The centrist candidate Marcelo will be elected president in January. During the campaign, he will be intentionally ambiguous about what he would do in different political scenarios.

After January:
10. Growth will continue the path of 2015 but employment will stop increasing at the same rate
11. The left-wing parties will be united in the first months of the year. A short-lived increase in consumption will be used as proof that ending austerity works. External balance will deteriorate. Left parties will change labour law, banking regulations and increase capital taxes.
12. After missing the original budget targets, the government will have to get a new revised public budget approved somewhere in April. This will be a hard one.
13. If the communists don’t approve it, and the right wing parties do not change leadership, the revised budget will not pass in parliament and the government will fall
14. The socialist party will accuse the right wing pro-european parties of being irresponsible for not approving their Brussels negotiated budget. Brussels will put pressure
15. New elections in June
16. If the communists approve the budget, the government will stay in power until the end of 2016. Around that time, the budgetary difficulties for 2017 will be impossible to address by a government with support from communists and left radicals. The wounds of a 1 year unexpected and unwanted coalition will become obvious.
17. Points 13 and 14 will happen anyway just a few months later.
18. Elections in March 2017.

Yes, this is Portugal

I grant you. I also find it hard to believe but it’s the plain truth. The portuguese offical media watchdog ERC has asked HotTV, a portuguese adult premium channel to “broadcast more programs in portuguese and more european and independent contents“. No subject escapes the grip of portuguese regulators. So it seems.


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.