The voters of Portugal have delivered a weak verdict on its left-leaning government. The general election result means western Europe’s poorest nation will have a hard time passing measures to tackle debt, deficit and unemployment. The Socialist party of Prime Minister Jose Socrates does not have an absolute majority in parliament any more, and he faces a challenge knitting a government together.
Socrates said: “After the president has confirmed the election result, I will start consultations with the parties. I believe that is my duty having won the elections with a relative but not absolute majority.” Socrates will need allies, either on the Social Democrat left or the right-wing, otherwise his government’s programme will risk rejection by an absolute majority in parliament at the end of next month. An added complication is internal disagreement within the parties. Analysts say the government may not last a full term, but could limp along for at least 18 months, because the constitution prevents parliament from being disbanded until after the presidential election, due in early 2011.