What's New(s)

What's New(s) - Portuguese elections - 03/02/2022

 What's New(s) - Portuguese elections - 03/02/2022

What´s New(s)? La revue de presse anglophone – Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

Last Sunday, elections were held in Europe’s most western Mediterranean country with the main question being: would the socialists remain in power ?

How did the press report on the somewhat surprising outcome ?

Indeed, the main question of these elections was: will current Prime Minister António Costa succeed to cling to power? Recent opinion polls had shown the election was on a “knife edge”, suggested POLITICO, after a sudden surge in support for the centre right PSD. This was not the only obstacle Costa had to overcome, his former far-left parties had dumped Costa a few months before by blocking the government's budget bill and calling for early elections, together with the right-wing parties. Against expectations, his party succeeded to win with an outright majority, obtaining 117 seats of the 230-seat parliament, wrote France 24. António Costa was certainly moved by this surprising victory after six years in government and two years of COVID-19, headlined Correio da Manhã. It is with “great emotion” that Costa will commit to the responsibility that the Portuguese have entrusted him, quoted the newspaper. Because of the landslide victory, the Socialist party will now be able to govern alone, after having relied on the Left Bloc and Communist Party for the past 6 years, concluded Deutsche Welle.

And what will this outcome mean for the upcoming years ?

Costa’s win implies another four years of political stability, stability which is crucial to make the most of a 16.6-billion-euro package of European Union recovery funds it will receive by 2026 argued France 24. Recovering the country’s tourism-dependent economy will be one of the key challenges for the country’s next ruling coalition, wrote Deutsche Welle. The management of the crisis was however also one of reasons why the Socialists won. Costa was often praised for his management of the crisis, with Portugal having one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe. What also helped was the promise to increase the minimum wage in western Europe’s poorest country, from 705 to 900 euros per month, suggested the Guardian. The upcoming years will reveal whether Costa will manage to put his words into action. The socialists will be challenged by the right-wing parties. Even if the centre-right landed with only 71 seats, the new populist Chega party, led by former TV star André Ventura, has garnered more support, and could emulate the example of the Spanish VOX, now the third biggest in the congress.

But then moving on to the east of the Mediterranean, where another president was re-elected, but by the parliament in this case …

Indeed, Italy, that had its particular ‘squid game’ to select its president. "The deadlock was broken", published France 24 to describe Mattarella's election as Italian president. Euractiv calls the president a 'reluctant hero', since he only agreed to be re-elected as president because political parties failed to agree on a candidate for his successor. Hannah Roberts even goes one step further in POLITICO describing Mattarella as "Italy's captive president". Mattarella has been coerced into staying, in the interest of stability, and his decision averts the imminent threat of early elections, she writes. It should be noted that there is a precedent, in 2013 Giorgio Napolitano was forced to do the same as Mattarella, something that Suanzes, El Mundo, attributes to the incapacity of the Italian ruling class. This crisis underpinned Matarella as a statesman. Spanish journalist Daniel Verdú defines him as a leader who kept the country on its feet when Salvini's national-populist drift threatened to unbalance it.

How was this somewhat controversial re-election perceived by the press ?

According to Angela Giuffrida, the Guardian, the re-election process has revealed deep divisions within the country's governing coalition. Elsa Fornero signs an Editorial in La Stampa in which she notes that the confrontation between politicians and technicians has returned to the forefront, with the former tending to circumscribe the activities of the latter. Spanish newspaper El Mundo describes Italy in another editorial as an "ungovernable country", where "anything is possible when it comes to political decisions''. Jason Horowitz, the New York Times, defined the vote as six disastrous days of secret ballots in which the different political interests within the ruling coalition failed to rally around a new candidate, and stresses that this election was a match ball for Draghi, since it would determine whether he would remain on the scene or become a victim of political chaos. Gustavo Zagrebelsky, La Republicca, depicts Italy as a ship of people in despair on the verge of sinking, with a lifeboat to cling to.

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