LISBON, Nov 16 (Reuters) - If Portugal’s president fails to swear in a government led by the Socialists, a “dangerous radicalisation of society” may take place, the head of the country’s largest labour union said.
The minority government of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho was ousted last week after a vote in parliament engineered by Socialist leader Antonio Costa and two allied leftist parties, the Communists and the Left Bloc.
The centre-right government had lost its majority in parliament in an election on Oct. 4. But the centre-right coalition won the most votes, leading President Anibal Cavaco Silva to re-appoint Coelho as prime minister and ask him to form the government, which lasted just over a week.
The country is now awaiting a decision by Cavaco Silva on what to do next. His two main options are to ask Costa to form a government or to leave the centre-right in power as a caretaker government.
“The president cannot impose himself above the will of the people and the majority in parliament,” Armenio Carlos, the head of the CGTP union, told Reuters just after meeting the president. “If he did, it would create a serious institutional conflict that could lead to a dangerous radicalization of society.”
Carlos, whose union has links to the Communists, said the president may have no choice but to swear in the Socialists even though he may not like doing so. The union has 700,000 members in a country of 10 million.
“He has to respect the constitution and the majority in parliament,” Carlos said.
Carlos hopes that a Socialist government supported by the Communists will quickly roll back austerity of the past few years.
“The Portuguese will not forgive that a party governs the country with the promise of fighting austerity and helping the weakest by only saying it and not doing it,” Carlos said.
“Therefore, at this moment the Socialist Party faces an immense challenge. They cannot frustrate popular expectations.”
Carlos met with the president last week as Cavaco Silva started his consultations on what to do next. Cavaco Silva has not said how long it will take before he makes his decision.
Reporting By Axel Bugge and Angus MacSwan, editing by Larry King