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Portugal govt presents plans to MPs ahead of crunch vote

Portugal’s new centre-right government headed by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho on Monday began presenting its programme to a parliament dominated by a leftwing bloc bent on bringing it down.

Passos Coelho’s coalition won the most seats in the October 4 elections, but lost the absolute majority it had enjoyed since 2011.

Now his fledgling government’s existence is hanging by a thread, with the main opposition Socialist Party — which has formed an unprecedented alliance with the radical Left Bloc and the Communists — poised to replace it.

The parliamentary session began around 1500 GMT on Monday and was set to continue into Tuesday.

Together, the Socialists, the Communists and the Left Bloc — which is close to Greece’s ruling Syriza — hold 122 seats out of 230 in the parliament, giving them the majority needed to pass a motion against the government’s programme.

Such a motion will be tabled on Tuesday by Socialist leader Antonio Costa, the former mayor of Lisbon.

If the leftists succeed, the vote would force the government to resign after just 11 days in power — which would make Passos Coelho’s administration the most shortlived in Portugal’s history.

The prospect of a leftwing coalition including the Left Bloc and the Communists taking power in Portugal, which is recovering only slowly after emerging from a 78 billion euro ($88 billion) international bailout last year, has raised concern in Europe.

Anxious to reassure creditors, Costa has repeatedly said that any Socialist-led government would respect Portugal’s international commitments.

“All the conditions have been met to ensure a stable, responsible, consistent and lasting government,” Costa said late Sunday.

The alliance between the Socialists, the Communists and the Left Bloc is the first of its kind since the birth of a democratic Portugal in 1974, and had seemed unimaginable just weeks ago due to the differences between the various leftist groups.