Portugal decides against poll to replace PM
By Peter Wise in Lisbon
Published: July 9 2004 21:40 | Last Updated: July 9 2004 21:40
"Jorge Sampaio, Portugal's president, announced on Friday night he would not call an early general election to resolve the crisis caused by the resignation of José Manuel Barroso as the country's prime minister to become president of the European Commission.
In a televised address to the nation, Mr Sampaio said he would ask Pedro Santana Lopes, the mayor of Lisbon and Mr Barroso's successor as leader of the centre-right Social Democrat Party (PSD), to form a new government.
Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, leader of the centre-left Socialists, the main opposition party which had called on Mr Sampaio to call an early election, immediately announced his resignation in protest against the president's decision.
Mr Barroso's decision to quit after two years at the head of a centre-right coalition had left Mr Sampaio, a Socialist, with a choice between calling an election two years ahead of schedule or appointing a new prime minister.
After two weeks of deliberation during which he consulted party leaders and senior statesmen, Mr Sampaio said stability would best be served by asking the centre-right coalition, which is backed by a solid majority in parliament, to form a new government.
Both options involved costs, he said, but an early election would be most damaging at a time when Portugal was facing serious social problems and a forecast economic recovery after a sharp recession in 2003 was still in its early stages.
But he warned he would use his constitutional powers to intervene if Mr Santana Lopes, who will succeed Mr Barroso as prime minister, failed to uphold the outgoing government's commitment to fiscal rigour and structural reform.
He said the new government must also respect the outgoing administration's policies in defence, justice, European affairs and other areas.
Mr Barroso, who formally resigned the premiership last week, had said previously he would not have agreed to become Commission president if he had not held the firm conviction that the president would ask his party to form a new government and not dissolve parliament.
But Socialists, the main opposition party, had insisted that such an administration would lack legitimacy, particularly after the heavy defeat they inflicted on the government coalition in European Parliament elections in June.
Opposition parties were strongly opposed to the idea of Mr Santana Lopes, whom they denounce as a populist with little government experience, becoming prime minister without a PSD party congress or a general election."