Portugal could see snap election as coalition in tatters over budget

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Portugal could be headed for snap elections as the minority Socialist government struggles to win support for its 2022 state budget from other left-wing parties.

A vote is scheduled for Wednesday, but the country’s Communist Party said on Monday it won’t back the government’s spending plan.

The Left Bloc, another party that has traditionally supported the Socialists, traded barbs with the government during recent days of tense negotiations, narrowing the chances of the budget receiving parliamentary approval.

Both the Left Bloc and the Communist Party have accused the government of not doing enough to increase the purchasing power of ordinary Portuguese citizens and improve public services.

The centre-left Socialist party holds 108 seats in Portugal’s 230-seat parliament. It has in the past relied on the support of its allies on the left or their abstention in votes.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has warned that if parliament does not approve the budget, he will call a snap election.

“My position is very simple: either there is a budget or there will be a dissolution,” the head of state said. While his powers are mainly symbolic, de Sousa can dissolve parliament to help solve a political crisis.

The next legislative elections were initially planned for 2023.

Prime Minister António Costa is an experienced politician whose negotiating skills have managed to keep two minority governments in power since 2015. A deal with the Left Bloc and other, smaller parties may still be within Costa’s reach.

With the main opposition party, the centre-right Social Democratic Party, busy with a leadership challenge, Costa could yet turn the situation to his advantage.

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