Constitutional Crisis in Portugal

The government of Portugal appears to be headed for a constitutional crisis. Anibal Cavaco Silva, Portugal’s President, has refused to permit a left-leaning coalition from forming a new government in the country, despite the fact that the coalition secured an absolute majority in parliamentary elections earlier this month. Instead, incumbent Prime Minister Pedtro Passos Coelho, who leads a center-right coalition, has been asked to form a new government, despite controlling just 107 of the 230 seats in the parliament—compared to the left-leaning alliance that controls 122 seats. The country’s conservative president declared he would not ask the leftist coalition to form the government due to the coalition’s anti-austerity political platform, which the president says threatens the economic stability of Portugal.

The move creates an interesting stalemate. While the left opposition cannot form a government without approval of the president, no government formed without their support could survive a confidence vote, suggesting whatever government is formed may be short lived indeed. The leader of the Socialist Party, Antonio Costa, described the standoff as a “pointless political crisis,” and voted to oppose the first vote in parliament, paving the way for a government to be formed next month.

What do you think? Is the president of Portugal correct in his decision to deny the ability of the leftist coalition to form a government? Why? And how might this decision affect the future of Portuguese democracy?

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