Austerity at Stake in Portuguese Election

Post-Doc and Teaching Fellow at Alzahra University
Austerity at Stake  in Portuguese ElectionAusterity at Stake  in Portuguese Election

Do changes towards left center parties in Europe constitute a positive sum? With prolonged austerity measures across the continent, it seems the frustrated voters are moving away from passive individual solutions to collective solutions within the system. With fast growing role of international institutions in domestic economies and contagious economic events, it seems political activists are striving to make small changes.

While the consensus among politicians and leaders on how to successfully rule has influenced voters to re-elect the government in office in the UK, it has also led to a surprise leadership victory of Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour party. With Joseph Stiglitz and Thomas Piketty as its economic advisors, the Labour party is going to shape a shadow government with a mandate to expose austerity and fight inequality. The difference between UK and other European countries emerges from the fact that UK didn’t have to suffer from austerity policies implemented by foreign entities. This in turn allows the opposition to rigorously criticize the government and request satisfactory justifications.     

It is interesting to see how the Troika leniency in debt levels instrumental in slow recovery in Portugal would change Portuguese upcoming election outcome. Given the soft economic growth in Portugal, will Portuguese conservative government survive the opposition blaming the figures to be unrealistic due to massive immigration (4.7%) and high growth of debt at the price of reaching highest rate of poverty since 2004? If Pedro Passos Coelho, the current prime minister wins the election today, he will be the first prime minister to be re-elected among the five euro zone states -- Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Cyprus and Spain, which received a bank bailout.

The opposition socialist party that refuses to commit to a potential coalition with more radical left parties is predicted to come in close on the heels of the conservatives.  As Syriza was re-elected in Greece, it seems it is not the attainability of promises made by parties that influence voters’ decision. It is the daily realities faced by people that matters more than the macroeconomic figures, which can be misleading.

With the rise in support for anti-austerity policies across Europe, the election will be closely watched by all member states struggling with similar issues. Antonio Costa, the leader of the socialist party stresses that Portugal’s socialists are not like Greece’s Syriza. But he is counting on the same logic by voters who will strategically vote to kick out the government that was too eager to implement austerity measures.