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CORRECTED: Portugal PM denies key aide’s exit triggers new crisis

Published on 11/04/2013

Portugal's prime minister denied Friday that the abrupt resignation of a top aide managing crucial public service reforms signalled a new political crisis for his struggling eurozone country.

The exit late Thursday of joint-minister and parliamentary affairs minister Miguel Relvas “will not lead to me or my government stepping down,” Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho told parliament.

“Miguel Relvas’s departure creates neither instability in the government nor any sort of political crisis in the country,” he said.

Until recently, Relvas was seen as Passos Coelho’s right-hand man, overseeing many public service reforms required of Portugal as it totters under a sovereign debt crisis that has contributed to the eurozone’s woes.

Relvas gave no reason for his resignation Thursday, but it came just before a government investigation recommended his 2007 university bachelor’s degree be invalidated for insufficient academic credits.

The Portuguese government is being buffeted on several fronts.

Public anger is simmering over deepening austerity needed to secure a 78-billion-euro (100-billion-dollar) EU-IMF bail-out granted in 2011. Unemployment has reached a record high amid a deeper-than-expected recession, and the budget deficit has swollen alarmingly.

On Wednesday, the government survived an opposition no-confidence motion in parliament, but several aspects of its 2013 belt-tightening budget are being vetted by the country’s constitutional court.

“The government gives an image of fragility and decomposition,” the secretary general of the opposition Socialist Party, Antonio Jose Seguro, said Friday.