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Portuguese president rejects call for snap elections

Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva said Sunday he backed the country’s centre-right coalition government and rejected calls for snap elections to resolve a political crisis shaking the bailed-out nation.

“I think in the current context of national emergency, calling elections is not a solution for the problems Portugal is facing,” said Cavaco Silva.

“I think the best solution is to keep the current government in power.”

His remarks came after crisis talks between Portugal’s three main parties failed Friday to reach a pact on pursuing radical reforms to avoid a second international bailout, as Cavaco Silva had called for.

The president urged the two parties in the ruling coalition — Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s centre-right PSD and the conservative CDS-PP — to work together to see through the reforms agreed under Portugal’s 2011 bailout deal and enable the country to return to the international financial markets.

“It is important to show our European partners that Portugal is a governable country,” Cavaco Silva said.

“The government has an undeniable majority.”

The coalition between the two ruling parties gives the government a comfortable majority in parliament, but the alliance is at risk after the resignation early this month of finance minister Vitor Gaspar, the architect of the budget cuts, and foreign minister Paulo Portas, the CDS-PP leader and an increasingly sharp critic of austerity.

Their resignations plunged Portugal’s politics into turmoil, casting doubt on the fate of the reforms agreed under the country’s 78-billion-euro rescue from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Bickering in the coalition and between the government and the main opposition Socialists, the third party at the failed crisis talks, has raised fears the government’s bid to overhaul its finances will derail and force the country to seek a second bailout.

After the two key ministers’ resignations, worries that Portugal would veer into a new crisis shook world markets fearful of a new wave of instability in the eurozone’s debt-laden periphery.

Portugal’s austerity measures are widely blamed for exacerbating a three-year recession, and the resulting hardship has sparked growing street protests.

The country forecasts a 2.3-percent economic contraction this year, and has record unemployment of more than 18 percent.

Portugal’s “troika” of international creditors — the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank — have postponed their next review of Portugal’s reform programme from mid-July to late August because of the ongoing political standoff.