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Portugal coalition talks bogged down say Socialists

Published on 09/10/2015

The leader of Portugal's opposition Socialist Party, Antonio Costa, said Friday that talks with conservative Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho on forming a coalition government had been "unfruitful".

Coelho’s “Portugal Ahead” coalition won 38.6 percent of the vote in last Sunday’s general election but lost its absolute majority, meaning he must obtain support from other parties to govern.

“The meeting was unfruitful,” Costa said after three hours of talks, adding he hoped that “the rightist coalition will have a concrete proposal to present” in the next round of talks scheduled for Tuesday.

Costa had earlier this week dismissed the idea of a grand coalition with the centre-right as “only imaginable in an extreme situation, like a Martian invasion.”

Costa’s Socialists scored 32.4 percent, meaning they hold the balance of power as Coelho seeks to forge a new administration.

He revealed that Communist Party leaders had in midweek talks made him “concrete proposals” as leftist parties consider the possibility of forming their own government.

Coelho said his party was “not ruling out any solution” while insisting that any government which emerged must continue with tough economic reforms, with Portugal having to present key aspects of its 2016 budget to the European Commission by October 15.

Costa similarly stressed that “we are in contact with all political forces. We are not closing any doors.”

But Costa stressed that “responsibility for creating the conditions allowing the formation of a stable government lies with the (ruling) coalition which secured the largest number of votes.”

Nonetheless the new Portuguese parliament is dominated by the left, albeit a divided left, a fact which would threaten the survival of any minority government.

Socialist leader Costa said that the ruling coalition had promised to present “a concrete proposal” at their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday.

Costa’s talks with Coelho took place at the Lisbon headquarters of Coelho’s centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) and were also attended by Paulo Portas, leader of the conservative People’s Party, a minority partner in the outgoing coalition.

Following Sunday’s poll, President Anibal Cavaco Silva charged Coelho with forming a “stable and lasting” administration.

Coelho’s poll victory came despite overseeing four years of painful austerity measures imposed on Portugal as part of a 78-billion-euro ($88-billion) bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.