We have witnessed, in recent times, to a constant claim to empower a Grand Coalition (with PS and PSD) in Portugal.
In principle, I am opposed to any Grand Coalitions; essentially because they represent - in a sense - the ‘end of politics’, the lack of democratic alternative, and the end of political conflict around alternative proposals. That said, I admit that under the present circumstances it is imperative that the Portuguese political system can construct formulas of stable governance. This may involve changing our political system (seeking majority models) or build an effective political culture of non-partisan negotiation.
One of the current problems is the fact that the socialists are Government. And this is the party with more difficulties to promote efficient coalitions. The PSD (Center-Right) has a natural partner in the CDS (Right), but the Socialists are unable to ally the left, mainly because PCP (communists) and the Left Bloc (Extreme-Left) have taken a strong anti-system and anti-power discourse. That obliges the PS to negotiate with its right, an ideological un-natural field, despite the recent socialist liberal drift on economic and financial issues.
Moreover, the current party leaders (Socrates and Passos Coelho) are not formatted to build an honest and foresight relationship, one that could create the conditions for an efficient and effective Grand Coalition. To insist on this solution, is to expect the party elites of PS and PSD to understand that they need to change their leaders, and elect ones that can build a solid bi-partisan bridge. The problem is that Portugal’s party system has no such political culture and the party elites are too tame for their domes.
In many other European countries, situations such as the one Portugal is witnessing, would had caused divisions in the party system, lead to the creation of new movements and / or political parties (as a liberal or centrist party) and to a strong intervention of civil society (still very weak in Portugal).
But Portuguese democracy has built a party system that easily accommodated to the spoils of power management (local and national), quickly crystallized, and prevented the development of a critical culture within party structures. Thus, parties are limited to obey the decisions of its small ruling elite, and hope the benefits they enjoy are not cut-off.
In this scenario, it remains for us to sail trough this "state of things" and wait for the advent of a new generation of party leaders, particularly in PS. This is because it is clear that the right has already realized that they will be in Government next summer and that they’ll do little more than managing the crisis. The Socialists will have to draw conclusions from recent events (including their coalition policies), with the risk that if they do not, they will be absent from governance for some years.