Lisbon — The president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Souza, decided to dissolve Parliament and call new elections for March 10, 2024. The measure was taken after the vacuum created by the dismissal of António Costa from the position of prime minister, accused of having favored companies in the exploration of lithic and green hydrogen and in the construction of a data center in the Port of Sines. The signs of corruption were revealed by an operation carried out on Tuesday (07/11) by the Public Ministry. Five people were arrested.
“Called to decide on the scenario created by the dismissal of the prime minister, I opted for the dissolution of the Assembly of the Republic and the scheduling of elections on March 10, 2024”, stated Rebelo de Souza, in a statement to the nation. According to him, there was no reason to change just the head of government, as the country would be bleeding and, later on, he would have to make the same decision, but in a context of a weakened economy and distrust in society. Until the last moment, the Socialist Party (PS), which has a majority in Congress, tried to maintain control of the São Bento Palace, claiming to have an absolute majority of elected parliamentarians. The last elections in Portugal took place, also in advance, in January 2022.
The president claimed that, before swinging the hammer for the dissolution of Parliament, he heard all the leaders of the parties that have seats in the Assembly of the Republic, and the majority were in favor of bringing forward the elections. In the Council of State, which met before the address to the nation, there was a tie between keeping everything as it is, just looking for a replacement for Costa, and dissolving the Assembly, a situation, in fact, that had already occurred in the past with other heads of State .
Crisis could be worse
During his speech, Rebelo de Souza listed a series of reasons for his decision. The first, he highlighted, was the nature of the vote in the last elections, which was very personalized for the prime minister, based on his own leadership, which resulted in a landslide victory. The second, the weakness of the formation of the government, which, even with a majority in Parliament, would not be legitimized by the popular vote if the head of the government were someone else. The third, the risk already seen in the past, of the government’s weakness resulting in a mere postponement of the dissolution until a worse moment, with a more critical situation and a more unpredictable outcome.
“If this context prevailed, the government would be presidential, that is, supported by the President of the Republic, weakening his role in a sensitive period in which he must be, above all, an internal and external reference”, he pointed out. The fourth reason was the indispensable economic and social stability, which is provided by the prior vote on the State Budget for 2024, even before the dismissal of the current prime minister was formalized, at the beginning of December — the vote on the Budget is scheduled for 29 from November.
The Portuguese leader also highlighted that the fifth reason for the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of new elections was greater clarity and a more vigorous course “to overcome an unexpected void, which surprised and disturbed so much the passionate Portuguese who found themselves at the eight years of leadership (from Costa)”. “In this way, we give the word back to the people, without dramatization or fear. That’s the strength of democracy, not being afraid of the people,” he said.
For Rebelo de Souza, now is the time to look ahead, study the progress, choose the people’s representatives and the government that will result from the elections. “A government that seeks to ensure stability and economic, social and cultural progress in freedom, pluralism and democracy”, he stressed. “A government with a vision of the future, taking what has already been done, finishing what needs to be done and innovating in what remains to be achieved”, he added.
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