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Portugal seeks negotiated end to political crisis

Published on 03/07/2013

The junior partner in Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho's centre-right coalition said Wednesday it wants to negotiate an end to the political crisis rattling the nation after two senior ministers quit over its bailout reforms.

The leadership of the small conservative CDS-PP party designated its president, Paulo Portas who on Tuesday tendered his resignation as foreign minister, to hold talks with the prime minister “to together find a viable solution for the government of Portugal”, a top party member said.

Portas unexpectedly resigned on Tuesday evening, a day after the shock departure of Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar, causing stock markets to fall as bond yields to rise as the crisis fed fears of a new wave of instability from the eurozone’s debt-laden periphery.

Portuguese media reported Wednesday that the agriculture and social security ministers who belong to Portas’ CDS-PP party were also likely to quit but chairman of the party’s congress, Luis Queiro, said the two had decided to stay on in their posts.

Earlier on Wednesday the prime minister has said he wished to find a way to keep the governing coalition alive.

“I am convinced that it will be possible to find the necessary conditions to ensure the stability of the government,” he told reporters in Berlin at a top-level meeting on youth unemployment.

In his resignation letter, Portas said he disapproved of the prime minister’s naming of Treasury Secretary Maria Luis Albuquerque to replace Gaspar. Her appointment was seen as an indication that Passos Coelho intended to push on with austerity despite protests.

Drastic cuts in spending and tax rises have plunged the country into a deeper recession with higher unemployment than had been expected.