Portugal’s opposition Socialists are in a strong position as mounting pressures on the ruling Social Democrats have prompted the dissolution of parliament and consequently a fresh general election.
It is thought Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes will stand in the poll, expected in February. President Jorge Sampaio decided Lopes was not up to his job and dissolved parliament. The move came after a top minister’s resignation, budget difficulties, a slump in the opinion polls and accusations of government meddling with the media. The Socialists, led by Jose Socrates, see a window of opportunity. “We are ready to work for political change in Portugal and we will be doing our best to earn the trust of the nation,” he said. Francisco Louca from the far-left bloc also welcomed the prospect of an election, saying it was important for the Portuguese to be able to choose a new direction. Lopes has faced a string of problems since taking over from Jose Manuel Barroso, now the EU Commission boss, in July. Trouble began when Lopes loosened a tight spending policy Barroso had imposed to close the budget deficit. That prompted a negative assessment of the country’s economic outlook from a credit rating agency.