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Portuguese opposition to abstain from budget vote

Published on 04/11/2011

Portugal's main opposition Socialists will abstain from a crucial upcoming budget vote so as not to undermine Portugal's efforts to survive the euro crisis, the party said Friday.

Rather than vote against a set of 2012 budget proposals it says are draconian, Socialist party leader Antonio Jose Seguro says the abstention signals it supports “Portugal staying in the eurozone”.

“The reason for our vote is to send a political message that the Socialist party is committed to helping Portugal come out of the crisis,” Seguro told reporters after an overnight meeting with party officials.

Portugal in May received a 78-billion-euro bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, conditioned on a tough austerity programme to be executed over three years.

When the Socialists lost power in legislative elections in June, the 2012 budget was left to the incoming right-wing coalition, who drew up an ever tougher set of measures in order to meet Portugal’s obligations to pay international creditors.

Proposed cuts include the temporary suspension of 13th and 14th month salary payments for civil servants and pensioners who earn more than 1,000 euros a month.

Private sector employees will be requested to work half an hour more per day, VAT will rise, while the health and education budgets will be slash

The cuts were unpopular with both the Socialists and the general public. Portugal’s two main unions have called for a general strike over the cuts on November 24.

“This is not my budget,” said Seguro on Friday. “I disagree with this budget. But it’s my country and I won’t turn my back on Portugal,” he said, adding that he would still make suggest changes “to make it less harsh”.

The budget will be debated in parliament from November 14 with a final vote slated for November 30.