Portugal's president urges parties to unite, seek compromise
Oct. 06, 2015
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal's president urged politicians on Tuesday to set aside their bickering and find compromises in the national interest after an election that threatened to bring a period of damaging instability.
The incumbent center-right government, which has followed a German-led model of austerity designed to correct the eurozone's debt problems, collected most votes in Sunday's ballot. But it lost its outright majority in Parliament, where it will be outnumbered by left-of-center lawmakers who want to ease or end austerity.
At stake is parliamentary approval for debt-reduction measures intended to help Portugal's economy recover from a 78 billion-euro ($87 billion) bailout in 2011 and a subsequent three-year recession. The election result looked likely to spell political gridlock and bring another bout of market nervousness about the eurozone nation's commitment to fiscal discipline.
"Portugal needs ... a solid and stable government. This is the time for compromise," President Anibal Cavaco Silva said in a televised address to the nation. "I trust that the political parties will put the higher interests of the nation in first place."
He said politicians need to "improve Portugal's standard of living and strengthen its international credibility" after the bailout and a tough period of tax increases and cuts in pay, pensions and public services.
Cavaco Silva has asked for a grand coalition before, urging the main parties to come together two years ago when the Constitutional Court blocked government efforts to cut some pensions and endangered the budget deficit goal, but the parties were unable to overcome their differences.
The head of state is usually a symbolic figure with no executive power, but Cavaco Silva is playing a central role in efforts to find a political accommodation. He spoke Tuesday after meeting with incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho.
The government now has 104 seats in the 230-seat Parliament, with four seats still to be allocated. The main opposition center-left Socialist Party has 85 seats, the left Bloc 19 and the Communist Party/Green Party alliance 17.
When Portugal neared bankruptcy in 2011 amid the eurozone debt crisis, its problems generated fears of a domino effect that threatened to engulf larger neighbor Spain.
The Portuguese government's win Sunday earned congratulations from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government in Spain, which faces an election Dec. 20. Rajoy's government has imposed deep spending cuts and faces challenges from anti-austerity groups like the Podemos party, but growth has returned to Spain and Rajoy hopes that will pay dividends at the ballot box.