Portugal’s New Prime Minister Asks Opposition Parties to Let Him Govern

(Bloomberg) -- Portuguese Prime Minister Luis Montenegro called on opposition lawmakers to be open to discussions with his center-right minority government, which needs to find backing from other parties to get budgets approved.

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The government will be open to dialogue and that’s also what’s expected of the opposition parties, Montenegro, 51, said in Lisbon on Tuesday evening after being sworn in. He said he wants to serve for the full four-year term.

The lack of a majority will make it harder for Montenegro’s government to push through the transformative measures he says are needed to strengthen the economy and boost living standards. The new premier may have to compromise on key policies to get enough support, with the 2025 budget due in October likely to be his administration’s big test.

Montenegro’s AD coalition got a narrow election win over the Socialists on March 10, and while he could secure majority support in parliament by forging a deal with far-right party Chega, he’s so far ruled out an agreement to get its backing. The populist party, led by Andre Ventura, grabbed much of the spotlight in the election, when it quadrupled its number of parliament seats, cementing its position as the third-biggest force.

Meanwhile, Socialist leader Pedro Nuno Santos has said it’s “practically impossible” that his party would agree with an AD government’s 2025 budget proposal, due to be presented in October. Still, the Socialists, who have just two fewer seats than the AD, may do deals on specific issues, such as an amendment to this year’s budget to improve the wages of teachers and some other public workers.

Montenegro, who aims to lower taxes, has said that he hopes the Socialists and Chega won’t join forces to block the new government. Santos says the Socialists won’t support the AD, but they also won’t back any motions to reject the new government’s program in parliament and oust Montenegro from office immediately.

“Not rejecting the government program in parliament doesn’t only mean allowing the start of governing action,” Montenegro said on Tuesday. “It means allowing its execution until the end of the term, or until a censure motion is approved.”

The Socialist Party in particular should be clear about whether it will be a “democratic opposition” or a “democratic blockade,” the new premier said.

Read more: Portugal Center-Right Leader Named Premier After Narrow Win

Minority governments in Portugal have tended to be short-lived. In 50 years of democracy, only two have survived a full four-year term. The Socialists governed for the past eight years under Antonio Costa.

Costa, 62, unexpectedly resigned as prime minister in November amid a probe into alleged influence peddling in government. The former premier, who denies wrongdoing, said on Tuesday that he told his lawyer to seek a hearing as soon as possible to clarify any doubts about suspicions that prosecutors might have.

Over the last few years, Costa has often been asked if he’d be interested in running for the position of European Council president.

“I’m always available to serve Portugal, but now I think it’s time that any suspicions are clarified,” he said.

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