Portuguese government faces defeat in budget vote; probable election :: WRAL.com

– The Portuguese parliament was set to reject on Wednesday the minority socialist government’s state budget proposal for 2022, a move that would likely trigger early elections and put the brakes on the country’s post-pandemic stimulus plans.

The moderate socialists have been abandoned by their far-left allies in the Communist Party and the Left Bloc who have helped consolidate government power over the past six years by voting for its policy or abstaining.

Prime Minister António Costa has said he will not resign even if he is defeated.

“The government’s duty, my duty, is not to walk away when the going gets tough,” Costa told lawmakers. “We have to face some difficulties.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who has no executive power but oversees the country’s operations, has warned he will call early elections if parliament does not approve next year’s government spending plan .

A budget vote was expected Wednesday evening. Barring a last-minute deal, the government’s proposal seemed doomed to failure.

Due to constitutional requirements that must be met before an election can take place, and given the Christmas recess period, early polls would likely only take place in January.

This means that a new 2022 spending program would likely not be presented to Parliament until April.

The timeline effectively places Portugal in months of political limbo just as the government was set to revive the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic by deploying some 45 billion euros ($ 52 billion) in funds. aid from the European Union.

A popular mass vaccination campaign has helped Portugal, for the time being, largely contain COVID-19. As it stands, with less than 1,000 new cases per day since mid-September and single-digit daily deaths, the pandemic is unlikely to delay an election in the country of 10.3 million people.

The Socialist Party currently holds 108 seats out of 230 in the Portuguese Parliament. Recent opinion polls suggest he would easily win the next election, but fall short of a parliamentary majority again.

Costa, the prime minister whose political profile in the EU grew significantly during the bloc’s Portuguese presidency last year, is widely seen as a candidate for an international post. A bad election result could be his signal to leave the national office.

The Communist Party and the Left Bloc both lost votes in the 2019 Portuguese election, with their decline in popularity partly blamed on their support for more moderate socialists.

The center-right Social Democratic Party, the main opposition, is caught in a battle for leadership and has largely failed to take advantage of the government’s predicament.

Disputes between the Socialists and their far left allies have built up this year. Major disagreements included the extent of a minimum wage hike, new rules on workers’ rights in the odd-job economy and homework, income tax increases, health spending public and pension rights.

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