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Thursday 28 March 2024

Portugal’s Farage Plays And Loses

As I mentioned earlier this month, the latest snap election for Portugal’s parliament threw up a messy outcome, with the largest grouping, the centre-right Democratic Alliance, managing just 80 seats, way short of the 116 simple majority needed in the 230-seat Assembly of the Republic. First task for its leader, Luís Montenegro, was to get an Assembly President elected.

Nothing sticks to Nigel Farage ...

For those in the UK, think Speaker of the House as an equivalent to Assembly President. Montenegro nominated José Pedro Aguiar-Branco; there was a vote; only 89 for; the nomination failed. Enter André Ventura, leader of the newly emboldened far right party Chega, to explain that it was nothing to do with him, honest. Except it was something to do with him.

Montenegro had ruled out working with Chega, on the not unreasonable grounds that Ventura was a fascist. But, by Ventura’s own admission, he and the AD leader had reached an “understanding”. So why had only 89 deputados voted for Aguiar-Branco? Ventura summoned his inner Nigel Farage to explain that he did not take responsibility for the mess.

Realising that allowing The Fash to make mischief ran the risk of collapsing the Government and bringing on yet more instability, it seems that Pedro Nuno Santos, leader of the centre-left PS, spied an opportunity, and there were discussions between him and Montenegro. The PS would back Aguiar-Branco. But - and this was a very big but - there would be a quid pro quo.

And that would be a scenario not unfamiliar to politics watchers in Ireland: the AD nominee would be Assembly President for no more than two years of the nominally four-year Parliament. After that, the PS would nominate someone who would then take over. This agreement would then enable the PS, with their 78 deputados, to support Aguiar-Branco. End of problem.

Until the next problem, which will be the need for AD to get its budget passed. This, it should be remembered, is what finally did for the last centre-right Government in Portugal, a coalition mainly of the PSD (Montenegro’s party) then under the leadership of Pedro Passos Coelho, in 2015. Except this time there is no viable alternative majority waiting in the wings.

... André Ventura wants a bit of that, too

There is only the spectre of The Fash under Ventura, with their 50 deputados, and unable to appreciate that being in opposition does not merely mean voting everything down. Montenegro now realises, if he did not before, that he needs Nuno Santos in order to stay in power, and will have to give up a series of concessions to the PS in order to keep them sweet.

Which is not lost on Ventura, who has had difficulty coming to terms with the reality of politics. As with his inability to take responsibility for anything, the spirit of Farage was present as he talked the talk in the realisation that he had played the game and lost. Here’s some of his pearls of wisdom.

I don't mind humiliating or degrading myself in the search for political stability. I don't mind giving an image of even some humiliation, even some demotion, if it means that I'm working towards stability”. Working towards stability is not what he and his pals were doing. But he did accuse Montenegro of being “arrogant and even childish”. He’s a victim!

He’s also ranted “today, Luís Montenegro chose his travel partner and it is with him that he will have to complete this trip … We are not here to be hidden from the country or to be ignored … The PSD prefers a left-wing solution to a right-wing solution. You are free to do so, but from now on everyone follows their own path and Chega will lead the opposition in Portugal, because it is the third party and the only one that is outside this pseudo-agreement made between PSD and PS”. It’s not fair!

What the PSD, as part of AD, prefers is not to collapse the Government on the say-so of a self-promoting fascist, someone who has called fora new dictatorship” and wants to proclaim the Fourth Republic, which is more or less the same thing. Portugal’s Government is about more than André Ventura.

Like Farage, he won’t take responsibility. Like Donald Trump, he’s a victim. Meanwhile, Nuno Santos will bale out Montenegro, extracting concessions as he goes. The Fash will merely bluster. Politics is the art of the possible, again.

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1 comment:

David Boffey said...