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Portuguese Communists seek government censure over austerity

Published on 15/06/2012

Portugal's Communist Party will file a symbolic no-confidence motion against the centre-right government over the country's sweeping austerity measures, an official said Friday.

The Communist Party’s secretary general Jeronimo de Sousa announced his intention to file a so-called censure motion on June 25 at a parliamentary debate attended by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, who heads a coalition government.

But the motion appears destined to fail, as the communists and their allies hold only 24 out of 230 seats, compared with the 132 held by the coalition.

The motion would protest the “pact of aggression, exploitation, impoverishment and government policy that is sinking the country and leading it to disaster,” de Sousa said.

Portugal has undertaken a raft of austerity measures as part of an International Monetary Fund and European Union rescue package worth 78 billion euros ($98 billion).

The country expects economic activity to contract by 3.0 percent this year after dropping by 1.6 percent in 2011.

De Sousa’s announcement came on the eve of anti-austerity protests in the capital Lisbon called by Portugal’s main trade union federation, allied to the Communists.

Coelho said he was not concerned about the motion, adding that Portugal must be viewed as respecting its commitments.

The Portuguese left, grouping the Communists with environmentalists and a far-left party, have always opposed the May 2011 rescue package.

The Socialist Party, which was in power at the time of the loan and is now the main opposition party with 74 seats in parliament, has urged respect for Spain’s commitments under the IMF-EU deal, though it has called the austerity measures excessive.

It has indicated however that it is not receptive to a censure motion.