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Right-wing government overthrown by motions of rejection

The right-wing government, formed by the coalition of the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, was the shortest-lived government in the history of Portuguese democracy.
Foto de Mário Cruz/Lusa

Today, the shortest-lived government in the history of Portuguese democracy was overthrown, after only 11 days in office. The four parties in the opposition (Socialists, Left Bloc, Communists and the Green Party) presented four separate motions of rejection. Only the first motion was voted, of the Socialist Party, and the result was clear: 123 votes in favour of the rejection of the government against 107 votes in favour. The PAN (Party for Animals and Nature), which elected an MP for the first time in the past October, also voted in favour of the motion of rejection.

The motions of rejection

The Left Bloc justified the presentation of a motion of rejection based on the fact that the right wing’s government program maintained austerity measures and wage reductions, the reductions of the pensions and supported a fiscal reform that would increase inequality and further the privatisation process. This, according to the Left Bloc’s motion of rejection, would make the workers poorer and they would loose rights. Moreover, currently half the unemployed have no subsidy from the state and the right wing planned to continue with this situation. Over the last four years, half a million people from Portugal emigrated and precarity has been promoted as a rule, even in the Public Sector, and collective bargaining has been consistently destroyed. With the right wing government, the welfare state has been successively destroyed, with focus on the National Health System and Social Security.

Right wing government program

Before the voting of the motions of rejection, the right-wing government program was criticised by Catarina Martins of the Left Bloc. In her parliamentary debate with the then Prime Minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, Catarina said “if the right wing does not have enough MPs to approve the program, it is because the people gave you a motion of no confidence in the last elections”.

The government programme presented by the right-wing coalition was vague in many of the fundamental topics of Portuguese society and maintained the same politics regarding employment, precarity and privatisations. Catarina Martins criticised Passos Coelho for choosing “demographic challenge” as an item in the government program after having told the people to emigrate. Additionally, the coalition government included an item called to “invigoration of the welfare state”, which Catarina Martins described as “the creation of an underground state, granting to the companies concessions over anything, from kindergartens to day care centres”. Catarina Martins reminded the right wing that when they were in government, “after having privatised everything, from the energy to the airports”, they applied measures that increased poverty and reduced the GDP to the levels from decades ago.

In Portugal, in the beginning of 2015, 993 thousand people were unemployed and 1 million and 861 thousand had precarious contracts (scholarships, short-term contracts, autonomous workers, etc.). In the beginning of 2015, 55% of the population was either unemployed or had a precarious contract. In their government program, the right-wing coalition did not include any measure about precarity and the topic “labour and employment” was only included as the 16th subsection on the chapter about “Competitiveness”, after entrepreneurship and tourism. The measures proposed by the right wing to promote employment were a continuation of their former strategy, promoting fraudulent internships and creating strategies to remove over 300 thousand unemployed from the official records.

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