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Portugal Foreign Minister Paulo Portas makes shock exit from government

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Portugal Foreign Minister Paulo Portas makes shock exit from government
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Portuguese Foreign Minister Paulo Portas has handed in his resignation.

The government number two quit his post just 24 hours after Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar also made a shock exit.

The finance minister was replaced by Maria Luis Albuquerque, a move which angered the foreign minister who complained there was no consensus over the appointment.

The news will further destabilise the delicate coalition government. It has been in power since 2011 and has been plagued with problems due to the unpopularity of austerity policies introduced to meet international bailout commitments.

Portas heads the small rightist CDS-PP party which guarantees the government’s majority in parliament.

He has periodically been at odds with Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho and Gaspar’s strong adherence to austerity.

State news agency Lusa reported that Portas has sent a letter to the PM saying he disagreed with Gaspar being replaced as finance minister with Maria Luis Albuquerque.

“As a consequence, and given the decisive importance of the finance minister, staying in government would be a pretence,” Lusa quoted Portas as saying in the letter. “It is not politically sustainable (for me to stay). The prime minister chose to follow the path of continuity at the finance ministry. I respect it but I disagree.”

“It looks like the end-game for the government,” said Antonio Costa Pinto, a political scientist.

“There is a possibility of the government staying on in minority with conditional support from CDS-PP, but the opposition will demand a new election and the president will be in a difficult situation.”