ALTHOUGH THERE HAS BEEN next to no coverage in the mainstream media, the left is poised to take power in Portugal. This will represent a significant rejection of the austerity policies demanded by the EU-IMF Troika. Those policies have produced little economic growth at the expense of acute social distress. Hundreds of thousands of young people have fled their country, where youth unemployment now runs at nearly 32 percent. Average household income has fallen nearly nine percent since 2009.
The Socialist Party, Communist Party and Left Bloc have overcome political differences to agree to a formal coalition and a common policy platform.
Catarina Martins of Left Bloc said that the negotiations with the Socialist party had been complex but that Left Bloc's immediate goal had been achieved - “to put an end to the cycle of impoverishment the country was going through”.
She conceded though that the economic measures was not as extensive as Left Bloc would of wished.
“We think that in order to end austerity and redistribute income in favour of those living off their work it is necessary to do much more than what the Socialist Party is willing to do. For example, we believe debt restructuring is needed in order to enable such income redistribution and protect the country.'
But she said that the Left Bloc was always willing to reach some sort of agreement with the Socialist Party, as long they committed themselves to stopping the impoverishment, protecting the welfare state and bringing the privatisation process to an end.
Following negotiations with Left Bloc and the Communist Party, the Socialist Party added over 70 measures to their government programme, including restoring wages and pensions to pre-austerity levels.
The minimum wage will rise to 530€ in 2016, 557€ in 2017, and 600€ by 2019.
|Marisa Matias: Standing for the presidency.|
On going privatisation programs will be immediately cancelled. Existing public-private partnerships will be independently evaluated.
Portugal’s Left-wing alliance won a majority in the country’s parliament last month but was initially rejected by President Anibal Cavaco Silva, who insisted on re-appointing a conservative government even though it had lost its working majority.
Left Bloc has also announced it will support Marisa Matias for President in the January election. She has represented Left Bloc in the European parliament since 2009. She says that the goal of her candidacy is “to defeat the project of the elite” and to end austerity.
For those interested in following events in Portugal Left Bloc has established an English page on its website here. It can also be followed on Facebook.