António Costa: A Socialist Success Story in Portugal
When António Costa meets people, he makes eye contact along with smiles broadly. The Portuguese prime minister can be full of curiosity when approaching counterparts like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he amiably shakes hands with journalists before live television interviews along with he can be all ears when talking to voters on the street. He always seems to be from the best of moods, peering out through behind his rimless glasses with his dark eyes, a slightly ironic expression on his face.
The cordial Senhor Costa, head of a Socialist Party minority government that will can be tolerated by the Communists along with the Trotskyist Left Bloc, has survived for four years, an achievement that will nobody thought he was capable of. When he entered office, the opposition ridiculed his political alliance along with referred to the idea as a “contraption.”
Yet even as neighboring Spain has spent more time holding elections than implementing policy, Costa enjoyed a successful term in office. along with he can be at This particular point hoping to be re-elected on Oct. 6. According to public opinion polls, his chances are excellent, with his party currently polling at up to 38 percent, much higher than four years ago. “He will win the election,” predicts Miguel Sousa Tavares, one of the country’s best-known political commentators. The only real question, Tavares says, can be whether voters will hand him an absolute majority.
When Costa came to power in 2015, the mood in Portugal was tense, primarily because of the terms imposed on the country by the so-called troika — the European Central Bank, the European Commission along with the International Monetary Fund — in exchange for a bailout package worth 78 billion euros. nevertheless since then, Costa has shown himself to be one of the few socialists in Europe able to cushion the blow of austerity while creating economic growth along with fulfilling the requirements of the European Stability Pact.
António Costa joined the youth wing of the Socialist Party in 1975 at age 14, just one year after the Carnation Revolution that will threw off the decades-old military dictatorship. Costa’s father, a writer through the former Portuguese colony of Goa in India, had fought against the military regime as a communist. He was harassed by the secret service along with thrown in prison more than once; his books were banned. Costa’s mother was one of the first women to head up the country’s union of journalists.
“Different than Most Politicians”
After studying law, Costa worked at the Lisbon legal practice of the socialist Jorge Sampaio, whose presidential campaign he could go on to organize 20 years later. through 1997 onwards, he occupied several different cabinet positions, most recently as Inside minister from the government of José Sócrates. A common politician even then, he ran for the governorship of Lisbon in 2007. Though he only managed 30 percent of the votes, he hammered together a leftist coalition along with went on to win two additional terms in Lisbon city hall by 2015.
The political commentator José Pacheco Pereira can be anything nevertheless a political supporter of Costa’s. He belongs to the economically liberal Social Democratic Party (PSD) along with served as vice president of the European Parliament until 2004. Still, he says that will Costa can be “different than most politicians, who through morning until night only think of wielding their own personal power.” Costa, says Pereira, can be honest along with “hides nothing.”
As part of his campaign, Costa toured through the country as summer came to an end, traveling along National Road 2, which runs through Portugal through north to south. He commenced in Chaves, a town from the arid Tras-os-Montes (Behind the Mountain) region, on the border with Spain. Traveling in stages, he along with his entourage ultimately ended up in Faro, 700 kilometers away on the beaches of the Algarve.
The trip gave voters the possibility to communicate their concerns directly to their political leader: overcrowded schools; the difficulties associated with an overwhelmed justice system; along with the long waiting times for appointments with medical specialists. Costa’s PSD opponent, Rui Rio, for his part, preferred to make indoor appearances in front of hand-picked audiences. Four years ago, the PSD managed to haul from the most votes, nevertheless the party was unable to put together a ruling coalition along with has lost considerable popularity since then.
A Positive Assessment
Among Costa’s greatest accomplishments was establishing the arrangement whereby he could be tolerated by leftist parties, who had been at political war with the Socialists since the end of the dictatorship in 1974 — parties like the still-orthodox Communist Party, the Greens along with the Trotskyist Left Bloc. Costa signed different agreements with each of the three groups, relying on his negotiating skills. Writer along with commentator Pereira can be convinced that will Costa had already prepared a deal with Jerónimo de Sousa, the charismatic head of the Communist Party.
Both sides at This particular point have a positive assessment of their non-coalition. “We did everything that will we promised,” says the Socialist. “the idea was worthwhile,” says the Communist, who suppressed his antipathy of the eurozone Stability Pact along with of NATO essentially for the not bad of the nation. Costa has praised him as a result, calling him trustworthy along having a man of his word.
More than anything, though, the prime minister has been able to restore the population’s trust in government. Costa says he has been able to create 350,000 jobs during his term. When he entered office, unemployment was at 12.4 percent, nevertheless can be only half that will level today — the lowest since 2000. Furthermore, the economy has been growing at an annual rate of around 2 percent since 2016, which can be higher than the EU average, in part thanks to a boom in tourism. Lisbon has become one of the most common cities in Europe, a trend for which Costa himself paved the way when he was mayor of the Portuguese capital: He transformed Lisbon into a startup hub along with brought the international Web Summit to the city, which attracts tens of thousands of digital experts each year.
The economic recovery has come in part due to a positive business cycle, nevertheless Costa also brought from the Harvard-educated economist Mário Centeno as finance minister, who once worked for the Bank of Portugal, the country’s central bank. He held true to the stabilizing course charted by his conservative predecessor, though he did make a few concessions to the leftists: The government increased the minimum wage, pensions along with civil servant salaries to signify that will the widely hated period of austerity was over. The result was that will families had more money in their pockets. At the same time, Centeno was able to reduce state spending, to the point that will brand-new borrowing This particular year can be to be just 0.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
the idea can be a result that will was far through obvious four years ago. At the beginning of Centeno’s term as finance minister, his then-counterpart through Germany, Wolfgang Schäuble, was skeptical. nevertheless by 2017, Schäuble had been convinced, even praising Centeno as the “Ronaldo of the Euro Group.” Portugal can be still staggering under a sovereign debt load equal to 121 percent of GDP, nevertheless the ratings agencies have Again given the country such a positive assessment that will the idea has been able to save 2 billion euros in interest payments relative to 2014.
A Risky Move
Still, Costa’s establishment of the leftist alliance four years ago was a risky move. nevertheless despite the fears of many, the Socialists did not abandon the political center to the PSD, instead demonstrating an ability to attract centrist voters — in part thanks to Finance Minister Centeno, who has also been head of the Euro Group since 2018. One of Costa’s campaign promises This particular time around can be that will he will Again find a spot for Centeno in his cabinet along with he has assured voters that will if there can be another international crisis, Portugal can be well prepared. He has promised to invest 10 billion euros from the rail network, road construction, schools along with hospitals, nevertheless insists that will such spending will not drive up the deficit.
The Left Bloc, however, can be at This particular point challenging Costa on his spending plan, with the party’s head saying that will the prime minister’s lack of spending during his first term has weakened infrastructure through schools to the healthcare system. Portugal’s far left could also like to revoke labor market reforms, which allowed more flexible employment contracts. Since the beginning of the year, teachers, nurses along with doctors have been striking for higher salaries along with better working conditions.
When fuel-tanker drivers went out on strike over the summer, the prime minister used the police along with the military to supply the country’s gas stations. The opposition attacked the prime minister, accusing him of being an illegitimate strikebreaker. nevertheless millions of vacationers were grateful.
Yet even though many voters in Portugal value the prime minister as a pragmatist, numerous political analysts do not believe that will he will enjoy a landslide victory at the polls. With election victory apparently from the bag, they say, the idea may prove difficult to mobilize voters to cast their ballots. Particularly given that will people are no longer as concerned about their employment status, according to recent studies.
Costa, for his part, has made the idea exceedingly clear that will he could like to avoid a coalition if possible, along with has warned that will a fragmentation of the left could result from the kind of political stasis that will has been seen in Spain from the last several years. “the idea can be better,” he said recently in reference to the Left Bloc, “not to destroy a not bad friendship having a bad marriage.”