Monday, June 06, 2011

Parliamentary elections in Portugal, which is struggling under EU/IMF austerity policies

Portugal is facing the same Herbert Hoover austerity measures that the EU and the IMF are imposing on Greece, Ireland and Spain. Two weeks ago, Spain local and state (provincial) elections went heavily against the nationally-ruling Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, PSOE). This Sunday it was the ruling Portugese Socialist Party that faced parliamentary elections after following the same disastrous neoliberal course the PSOE followed and continues to follow, playing the role of implementing the foolish and destructive EU/IMF austerity policies.

And like in Spain, they lost big-time. The conservative party won a majority in Parliament, where they promise to act like conservatives and implement harsh austerity measures just like the Socialists were doing. Only more so. (Francesc Relea, Passos Coelho acaricia la mayoría absoluta en Portugal El País 05.05.2011;
Opposition wins Portugal election Aljazeera English 06/06/2011)

This Aljazeera English report is from Sunday before the election was known.

The terminology would give Glenn Beck fans that exploding feeling, because in Portugese politics you have to distinguish between the center-left Socialist Party Partido Socialista, PS) and the rightwing Social Democratic Party (PSD). In the terms that are familiar to countries where there are actually social-democratic parties, the main social democratic parties are affiliated with the loose international party alliance, the Socialist International, including Britain's Labour Party, Germany's Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) and France's Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, PS). Despite the names Portugal's PS is the "real" social democratic party, i.e., the Socialist International affiliate.

Once again, it's just this phenomenon that scares me about the assurance among many Democrats that Obama will cruise the conservative PSD of the incoming Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho made it clear they would continue to pursue the EU austerity measures that are hammering the economic well-being of the country. But they got elected anyway. The Socialists under outgoing Prime Minister José Sócrates tried something like what seems to be Obama's main pitch: At least we aren't as bad as the conservatives would be!

Here's an Aljazeera English report after the results became known:

The social democratic parties in Europe don't seem at the moment to have profited greatly in an electoral sense from their adoption of neoliberal economic policies. In the middle of a prolonged slump, which in parts of the EU is worse than in the US and in parts not as bad, after Portugal's election, only four countries in the EU are now governed nationally by social democrats: Cyprus, Greece, Slovenia and Spain. And the prospects for the PSOE in Spain look dim at the moment. [Partial correction: The Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) is the senior partner in a Grand Coalition government with the conservative People's Party (ÖVP).]

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