The summer season now ending has been marked, politically, by the exacerbating of the relations between the two major Portuguese parties who, in consecutive public statements, sought to condition and set the pace for the political rentrée, simulating a situation of impending conflict.
The state budget is presented as the immediate cause of the melee, but truly what is at stake is the leadership of the political agenda for the next - and crucial - months.
In this game between Passos Coelho and Socrates both bet the other will retreat into their demands, thus yielding the political 'high ground'. If both cling to their positions that will mean that the State budget will be rejected - and the country run on a monthly basis - and that until next summer the mechanisms to clarify the current political situation would only pass by the Parliament, where the government could provide a motion of confidence or the opposition a motion of censure, as there is an impossibility of dismissing the parliament and set early elections (the President looses his rights to use these powers in 9 September, because of January 2011 presidential elections).
The scenarios post-rejection of the State Budget are interesting for political scientists and 'opinion makers', who engage to explore the possibilities of Portuguese political and constitutional system. It would also transform the dynamics of the incoming presidential elections, forcing the candidates to express their views on the conduct of political parties and the President - also a candidate - to leave his ‘shelter’ and actively intervene in political life in what could be an interesting feature; but it would also have severe adverse consequences for the country, so attentive Portugal is to scrutiny of the international financial community.
The truth is that – when regarding budgetary issues - the government has fulfilled its obligations: acceded to the wishes of Brussels to implement two stability pacts (both with the express support of the right wing PSD), and is now preparing to present the State Budget in accordance with the plan established with the European Commission. In this sense, unless Socrates want to denounce Passos Coelho 'bluff', PS has no need to submit a motion of confidence. Now the PSD, which - we repeat - agreed with the stability plan and promised to provide the necessary governmental stability until 2011 - has now to reject the State Budget if the PS does not give in to their demands, and then, if he want to be consistent, must submit a motion of confidence in the Government, presenting itself as a government alternative to Cavaco. Clearly, Passos Coelho is willing to do anything to become Prime minister but will have to arbitrarily play with the future of the country to do so?
We all remember that after the Cuban missile crisis a red phone was installed in Washington and in Moscow for to the leaders of the world could directly resolve future conflicts. Socrates and Passos Coelho are known and have the contact of each other; so, couldn’t they just call each other and solve the intricate situation in which we find ourselves? For the sake of the country?