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Friday 10 June 2011

Another View From Lisbon

So the dust has settled following last Sunday’s legislative election in Portugal. Despite some of the rhetoric telling that the country had “rejected socialism” or “moved to the right”, the more prosaic reality is that the largest party, formerly the PS, is now the PSD, the latter having secured 38.6% of the popular vote. To form a majority administration, the PSD will have to agree a coalition deal (sound familiar?) with the CDS, who took 11.7%.

Praça do Comércio, Lisbon

So who’s who, and what do the various labels mean? The PS, or “Socialist Party”, formerly headed by José Sócrates, had previously formed the Government, but was in a minority. In fact, the PS is more of a mainstream Social Democratic party, and there the confusion starts: the PSD is nominally the Social Democrats, but in a country like Germany (for instance) would be rather like the Christian Democrats – centre to centre-right.

The CDS, or Peoples’ Party, is also centre-right in outlook, and so is a natural coalition partner for the PSD. But almost a week after the polls, negotiations are still continuing. It is hoped that the first meeting of the new Assembly of the Republic (RA) will happen on June 20, which is still a week and a half away. Those who worried over the time taken to work out the coalition agreement following the UK General Election last year might take note.

Sorry, no overtime, we'll move it tomorrow

So it might be thought that no progress would be made on any current issues, but at least one has been solved: while Londoners brace for more industrial action on the Tube this summer, what was set to be a month long overtime ban – with some all day strikes – on Portugal’s rail network has been called off.

It wasn’t the only part of the transport sector to be affected by strikes: national air carrier TAP had been threatened by a ten day strike over cabin crew staffing levels. Fortunately, this too has been resolved after the Labour ministry successfully secured agreement between company and unions.

Given that there will be further austerity to come, there is likely to be a need for more mediation, because there will be more industrial action. Portugal is not out of the woods yet, not by a long way. I’ll check back later in the summer to see how events are unfolding.

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