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Portugal foreign minister resigns

Published on 02/07/2013

Portugal's Foreign Minister Paulo Portas tendered his resignation on Tuesday, a day after the country's finance minister also quit.

“I presented my resignation this morning,” Portas said in a statement. “My decision is irrevocable.” Portas’ small conservative CDS-PP party is part of the ruling coalition headed by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho.

The surprise move came a day after the shock resignation of Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar, the architect of the country’s reforms under its EU-IMF bailout which has triggered calls for an early election.

In his resignation letter Portas said he disapproved of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s decision to replace Gaspar with Treasury Secretary Maria Luis Albuquerque, who has managed the country’s privatisation efforts.

The prime minister’s choice had been interpreted as a clear indication that he intended to continue on the path of fiscal discipline despite criticism from the opposition and rising social unrest.

“The prime minister has chosen to maintain its path at the finance ministry. I respect this choice but I disagree,” Portas said.

“I expressed this view to the prime minister who nevertheless confirmed his choice,” he said.

Portas said that as a result “remaining in the government would be an act of simulation. This would not be politically viable nor desirable.”

Portas has repeatedly expressed doubts about the validity of the government’s policy of austerity and has warned that he could bring the coalition down if a plan to raise taxes on pensioners is applied.

The government came to power in early elections June 2011.