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Portugal’s Communists say ready to back a Socialist govt

Portugal’s Communist Party on Wednesday said it would be willing to support a Socialist-led government, confirming a leftist bid to block the emergence of a minority right-wing government.

“There is a sufficient majority of MPs to form a government led by the Socialist Party,” party secretary general Jeronimo de Sousa said following talks with President Anibal Cavaco Silva.

On Tuesday evening, Socialist leader Antonio Costa and Left Bloc spokeswoman Catarina Martins said they were ready to join forces despite their differences over Portugal’s membership of the eurozone and renegotiation of the country’s debt.

Outgoing Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, whose right-wing coalition won the October 4 election but lost its absolute majority, also staked his claim on the premiership.

The Socialist Party, the Left Bloc, which is allied with Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza party, and the Communists won 122 of the parliament’s 230 seats, compared with 107 for the right-wing coalition.

All eyes are now on the president who must chose who to tap as the next head of government after consulting with all the parties in parliament.

Such consultations, which are required by the constitution, are due to end later on Wednesday.

Most analysts believe Cavaco Silva will respect the Portuguese tradition of naming the leader whose bloc won the most parliamentary seats — in this case, Passos Coelho.

Meanwhile, senior EU officials on Wednesday warned Portugal could face consequences for failing to present its draft budget for 2016 on time.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Valdis Dombrovskis, EU vice president for the euro, said Portugal’s draft budget had been due to reach Brussels by an October 15 deadline.

“It is not out of the question that we could take measures,” he said, without saying what such measures could involve.

Portugal is the first country to fail to meet the October 15 deadline for sending budgets to the European Commission since a set of new rules for harmonising cross-border economic governance were put in place in 2013.

Dombrovskis said he was in “constant contact” with the Portuguese authorities.

Portugal’s outgoing government had on October 12 said it would submit its overdue budget, but said it was the only body able to do so following the October 4 elections.

Approval of the 2016 would be one of the first hurdles facing the new government once its makeup is ensured.