Portuguese set to turn page on Antonio Costa era

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Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the conservative president, met with the leaders of the main political parties from Wednesday as he decides whether to ask a party leader to try to form a new government or whether to dissolve parliament and call new elections will unsubscribe.

The main opposition parties on the left and right have already called for early elections.

“We must start a new cycle by giving the Portuguese people their voice back,” said Luis Montenegro, chairman of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the main right-wing party.

The Socialist Party, which has an absolute majority in parliament, defended a solution that would involve “the appointment of a new prime minister,” said party leader Carlos Cesar, who spoke after a meeting with the president.

Should elections take place, the Socialists prefer that they take place in March so that the party has time to find a successor to Costa.

Rebelo de Sousa will meet on Thursday with the Council of State, an advisory body that includes former presidents, before addressing the nation in the evening to announce his decision.

The prime minister’s resignation sent shockwaves across Portugal, with headlines talking of the “end of a cycle”, “the November 7 earthquake” and a “political bomb”.

“Antonio Costa has gone down in Portuguese political history as the first acting head of government involved in a criminal case,” the Publico daily wrote on Wednesday.

– ‘Influence peddling’ –

Tuesday began with a series of searches of ministries, law offices and the prime minister’s home, before Costa surprisingly resigned just hours later.

He made his decision after hearing his name was mentioned in an investigation into the approval of a hydrogen plant south of Lisbon and a lithium mine in the north of the country.

The investigation includes suspicions of “embezzlement, active and passive corruption by political figures, and influence peddling,” prosecutors said.

Costa himself is suspected of intervening “to unblock procedures” in the approval process and will be the subject of a separate investigation, prosecutors said.

“Under these circumstances I apparently had to resign,” Costa told a news conference on Tuesday, insisting he had done nothing illegal.

After winning an outright majority in January 2022 – a rare feat among Europe’s left-wing parties – Costa has seen his popularity decline following a series of scandals.

The 62-year-old’s departure opens a leadership battle within his Socialist Party.

The investigation also led to the indictment of Infrastructure Minister Joao Galamba and the arrest of Costa’s chief of staff Vitor Escaria and his adviser Diogo Lacerda Machado.


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