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Bailout row set to dominate Portuguese campaign

Bailout row set to dominate Portuguese campaign
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Portugal’s general election campaign is underway ahead of next month’s ballot, with the country’s international bailout at the heart of the debate.

The Socialists under caretaker Prime Minister Jose Socrates have recovered in the polls since the government fell in March.

They now stand just behind the centre-right opposition, the Social Democrats, whose leader Pedro Passos Coelho has accused Socrates of plunging Portugal into “quasi-bankruptcy”.

In a televised debate on Friday, he said the prime minister had delayed requesting a loan he described as inevitable. Socrates replied that it could have been avoided if the opposition had accepted his austerity programme.

If the election brings deadlock the right-wing Democratic and Social Centre stands to benefit. The party under Paulo Portas has support of around 13 percent according to the polls, and could form part of a future coalition.

Planned austerity measures aimed at slashing Portugal’s deficit under the terms of the bailout have brought protests. Thousands took to the streets in a union-organised march in Lisbon last week.

But all three main parties have committed themselves to the bailout conditions and have little room for manoeuvre.