The president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousahas finally leaned towards the electoral advance in response to the open political crisis in the country with the resignation, on Tuesday, of the socialist Antonio Costa as prime minister, investigated for alleged irregularities in the granting of licenses to exploit lithium mines and produce green hydrogen. The president has set the call for the elections for next March 10th.
“I opt for the dissolution of the Assembly of the Republic and the calling of elections on March 10, 2024,” Rebelo de Sousa said this Thursday in a statement to the country at the end of a four-hour meeting of the Council of State. The day before, he consulted with all political parties with parliamentary representation.
The socialists, who have absolute majority, they proposed to the president to continue governing with a new prime minister and Costa even transferred up to four names, but the majority of the opposition parties requested that Parliament be dissolved and early elections be called, a scenario that, a priori, was the preference of the Portuguese head of state. As he insisted this Thursday, the socialist victory of 2022 was personalized in the figure of Costa and agreeing to his party’s proposal would have been a “weaker” alternative.
The choice of the date of the elections is not trivial, as it will allow the Government to approve the budget for 2024, whose final vote is scheduled for November 29. The Portuguese Constitution and the Electoral Law establish that early elections must be held between 55 and 60 days after the date of dissolution of Parliament is formalized.
“The approval of the budget will allow us to respond to the expectations of many Portuguese and control the application of the Recovery and Resilience Planwhich does not and cannot stop with the transformation of the Government into a management government or with the dissolution of the Assembly,” he noted. According to Rebelo de Sousa, having the accounts for the next financial year represents a “guarantee of the indispensable economic and social stability“.
Likewise, with this deadline the president gives time to the Socialist Party for reorganize internally, after the earthquake that caused the resignation as prime minister of its leader, who had headed the Government since 2015 and was facing his third term, the first with an absolute majority. When he announced his resignation, Costa stated that he would remain in functions until he had a replacement as chief executive.
During his speech, Rebelo de Sousa thanked Costa for his work at the head of the Government, with complicated moments such as the pandemic or the war in Ukraine and the most recent in Gaza, and wished for clarification of the judicial case that led him to resign.
Minimum wage increase
While Rebelo de Sousa was meditating his decision, the Government approved this Thursday by decree law an increase in the minimum salary up to 820 euros (60 euros more than now) and a update of salaries of civil servants (52 euros for gross salaries of up to 1,807 euros per month and 3% for higher salaries) starting in January 2024. The measures were already known and had been agreed with employers and unions.
Costa presented his resignation on Tuesday after the investigation against him became public for alleged prevarication, active and passive corruption and influence peddling in lithium and hydrogen businesses, although he assured that he has not committed any illegal act.