In Portugal, the first decade of this century was marked by the Barroso 'thong' discourse (thong later updated to a European version), and the social progressive policies of the government of José Sócrates. With Barroso at the helm, the country once again had the opportunity to remember how right wing rules: no ideas, no social policies and no prospects for the country; and Barroso’s escape to Brussels also provided interesting information on how the conservatives deal with State’s affairs, running away when there are presented with a better career opportunity.
The Socrates government, although submerged in the biggest financial and economic crisis in the last 70 years and ‘contractually’ forced to follow the neo-liberal policies of Brussels, set Portugal onto modernization path, with a well-designed Technology Plan, founded on a set of socially progressive policies (with special emphasis placed on equality framework). Although not all the areas in the socialist intervention were a success, it is now quite evident that Portugal sets an example to the world in sectors such as scientific research and renewable energies. Perhaps the biggest criticism of Socrates is that he has not been able to find alternative policies in the economic and financial areas, having mainly followed the guidelines produced by the neo-liberal 'Berlaymont'.
In any case it is important to know the differences between a right and left wing government in these times of uncertainty and crisis. The right wing always forgets the most vulnerable and always increases the gap between the richest and poorest. The left, although following the same conditioned Brussels guidelines, seek to maintain a whole array of social concerns progressive, not abandoning the poor.
I think it is of grave importance to consider these differences, in a time when we prepare to elect the next president. Portugal is in a difficult political situation, as it is ruled by a minority government, where the president can and should play an important role in balancing the political system. Cavaco has lost the opportunity to speak qualitatively when he refused to state his opinion as an economist, preferring to promote a strategy of "institutional stability”, which has given poor results. Electing Alegre (the left wing candidate) will mean to promote a more cultural and humanistic view of the political system, at a time of need for those set of values.
Those are the two visions of Portugal that will be in dispute in the first month of the new year and much of this choice will decide how the next decade will be. We will then have to decide if we want a more caring and humanist president or maintain a technocrat post-Salazar one. The choice for me seems clear.