Nothing new, many things yet to decide: Portuguese national elections 2011
As in the rest of Europe, the party in government suffered a considerable defeat, the opposition won. In Portugal’s case (the exact opposite of Greece’s) the party in power at the time of the financial crisis was the socialist, and so the conservatives won.
Let us take an overview of what happened.
PSD - went from 29,1% in 2009 to 38,6%. A smaller score than Barroso’s in 2002 but the times have changed - namely, CDS, has a lot more votes than in the previous decades. PSD more or less openly presented an economically very radical program (which I have my doubts the voters actually know) and so the result is all in all a very good one.
PS - dropped from 36,5% to 28%. The worst result since the all time low of 1987, when they had 22%. Despite what many socialists think, PS could have had a much higher score, should the Prime Minister José Sócrates had avoided presenting himself to elections. More than PS, citizens were tired of this man.
CDS - the right-wing conservatives consolidated their position as the third party, going from 10,4% to 11,7%. CDS is no longer regarded as a right-wing populist group and has managed to play, at several times, an important role. The voters have certainly given a prize to the party - though 2% less than what the polls indicated just a few days ago...
CDU - the communist and green alliance kept their 7,9% of the votes, and got one more MP. They resisted very well to the debacle of the Left, but they did not gain anything from popular discontent. They have no role to play in national politics (since they refuse to make any agreements with PS) and so they keep their congregation - and that is it.
BE - the Left Block, which despite of its history and its name was in the past actually more moderate than CDU, played a dangerous game and was punished for it. Since its founding, slightly more than a decade ago, they have managed to grow consistently, catching left-wing votes from PS and some electorate that, not necessarily being left-winged in economics, was progressive on moral issues. They grew fighting for abortion and gay rights, for example. With the crisis, BE decided to enter into competition with CDU. The result was the loss of half of the votes, from 10 to 5%, and half of the MP’s.
What will this change? Well, in my opinion (which is not necessarily the dominant one) as we say in Portugal, the flies will change but the sh... will be the same. The main thing everybody has to understand is that the most responsible parties (responsible because they created the problems that we now face, and responsible because they are the only ones who are ready to meet the challenges ahead of us) have little space for maneuver. As some political commentators pointed out during the electoral night, Portugal needs to have at least PS and PSD, and also CDS in the ideal solution, all working together to figure out how to implement the Troika’s (EC, ECB, IMF) plan. That is the only real government program for the coming years. Who will implement it, and the exact details, are, precisely, details.
Unfortunately - and this is probably the only thing in which the two Left parties (CDU and BE) were right to the point - this was not discussed during the elections. These were bitter elections between the two main parties. A lot of personal accusations. Even episodes of small violence, especially when José Sócrates, the Prime Minister, was around. And so the most important will only be known now.
Does any of this have any relevance for liberals across Europe? Well, let me start by saying that my political movement, MLS, has recently done an analysis of the electoral programs of the four parties that a liberal voter may feel attracted to (BE, PS, PSD and CDS)#. Many people asked us who should they vote for. Many of us (me included) did not know either. We had a working group dedicated to it and our results and our voting recommendation anticipated in some way the results of the elections.
BE’s program was awfully bad. PSD had the best program in economic subjects. CDS could be interesting for those liberal voters interested in voting strategically, to provide a good coalition party. PS did not have a very bad program, having a slightly better score than CDS, essentially due to their clearly pro-European stances (the only one doing that, for PSD gave little importance to Europe, preferring the links with the Portuguese-speaking world and the United States) and their positions on individual freedoms.
Though I am sure that many think that the victory of the two EPP (PSD and CDS) parties are a sign of hope for Portugal, I’m much less enthusiastic. First of all, and as we have seen with Greece, austerity measures are but a small part of the solution. The market’s good will is actually more important. And, above all, the economy has to grow. PSD and CDS were in government only six years ago, and they left the economy as bad as they received it, and the budget deficit twice as big. So will they change their past incompetence? Let us see. I believe more in the IMF than in Portuguese parties, I must admit.
As I said previously, while the most important (the Troika’s rescue plan) is already decided but yet to be unveiled, all the rest followed more or less the present European trends, with governments in general losing the elections. What we now have to see is how PSD and CDS will implement the necessary changes, and how deep will PS’s (necessary) cooperation with the conservative government be. Without such cooperation the task will be impossible.
Individual Member of LYMEC
International Officer of Movimento Liberal Social
Sorry, but only in Portuguese - but if you want to take a look at it, check http://www.liberal-social.org/analise-programas-eleitorais-legislativas-2011.