Portugal on the Frontlines between Democracy and Neoliberalism


Europe fired its first shots against national democracy when it went after the people of Greece for having the audacity to reject the EU’s austerity programme at the polls in January. Battle lines were drawn across Europe and over a number of rounds of negotiations and financial decisions the Greeks were brought to their knees, forcing the government of Alexis Tsipras to make accommodations to Brussels in order to feed his people; a Euro victory that has further fractured the political left right across the European Union. What we have learned from Greece is that the financial power brokers of the EU will no longer tolerate the democratic will of people when that will stands in the way of the Euro agenda.


A new theatre of this particular struggle has erupted in Portugal where a constitutional crisis has been triggered by President Anibal Cavaco Silva refusing to grant the Socialist coalition the right to form the national government after it secured a parliamentary majority. Instead of accepting the democratic will of the Portuguese people Silva has opted to allow Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho to continue in government with his minority pro-EU centre-right Social Democratic Party. Insisting that the Socialist Party will not be taking lessons from President Cavaco Silva, Antonio Costa – the Socialist leader – said that “it is unacceptable to usurp the exclusive powers of parliament.”


What Cavaco Silva appears to think is an acceptable short term solution to the obvious erosion of the political and social élites’ hegemony can do nothing but fail; all that it has created is the paralysis of government with a minority opinion being hampered at every step by the rest of parliament. Silva’s return to the dictatorial politics of pre-1974 can only harm the people and his own position as head of state. Costa has already signalled his own intentions to force a governmental collapse with a vote of no confidence in Coelho’s weak government. This will happen soon.

It is becoming increasingly clear, looking more widely, that a serious rift has occurred between the onetime synonyms of Democracy and Neoliberalism. Freed for the past two and a half decades from its piggy-backing relationship with European and North American democracies in its ideological war with the Soviet Empire, Neoliberalism has now discovered freedom to be more of a hindrance than a help. The European Union, a continental financial operation with a democratic façade, has now launched open war on the working people who were hoodwinked into creating it. It is now beyond doubt that Greece and Portugal have become the test cases in the conflict that will now shape our future.


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