Portugal’s President throws underhand legislation back to embarrassed MPs
Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, has proved yet again he is nobody’s fool and will continue to stick up for the public's right to fair play in the face of a government that seems intent on saying one thing and doing another.
The case in point is the suspiciously covert government law change that aimed to scrap VAT on political party spending and lift the limit per donation to political parties.
Rebelo de Sousa spotted that the proposed law changes were slipped to him for signature just before the busy Christmas break and had been devised in almost total secrecy.
The President of the Republic has thrown the legislation back to parliament and says he will only sign it if the parts about VAT and fund raising income are scrapped, leaving in the section that strengthens the supervision and control powers held by the Political Accounts and Financing body and the Constitutional Court.
In a message sent to parliament to justify his veto of the new law, a message that was highly critical of the way MPs had prepared the legislation, the President of the Republic was absolutely clear that he is highly dissatisfied with the way the law was presented as the public had no say and no sight of the proposals, nor could anyone find out who had suggested the changes it nor which parties had said what in debate.
In his missive, the President of the Republic was particularly hard on MPs:
“Democracy also is created by the adoption of decision-making processes that can be controlled by citizens. This is called transparency. Regardless of my personal position, other than that consecrated as President of the Republic, I can not enact legislative solutions which are so essential, without any knowledge of the reasons for them,” wrote Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
The Head of State has given the lie to one of the main tenets of the Socialist Party and its left wing support club, which always have insisted that everything they do is in the clearest and most transparent manner.
For Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, this latest process was poorly conducted from the outset and he politely suggested that “…the Assembly of the Republic should have the opportunity to reconsider the matter.”
The parties now have 15 days to review this process and, if they want to, submit a new version of the law. Technically, parliament could snub Rebelo de Sousa and resubmit an unaltered law as the President can not veto the same diploma twice.
This is unlikely as Rui Rio and Santana Lopes – one of whom soon will be the new leader of the PSD – already have said they are against the changes to the law, the Left Bloc want to make changes, leaving the communist party which wants to keep the law ‘as is’ and challenge Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s veto.
Bravo for the president for sticking up for citizens. This leaves embarrassing questions for the Prime Minister as to why such contentious law changes deliberately were hidden from public view.
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