Portugal faces a crucial presidential election this week as the economy continues to collapse. Many commentators believe that Portugal will be the next European Union country to need a financial bailout.
The minority Socialist Party government, which is similar to the Labour Party, is presiding over a severe austerity programme. It is expected that the right wing president Cavaco Silva will be re-elected on Sunday.
Luis Fazenda, a Left Bloc MP and a vice-president of the Portuguese parliament, told Socialist Worker, “Everybody is waiting for the International Monetary Fund to get the keys to the Portuguese government. In order to avoid that, it is implementing an austerity plan, with cuts in wages, pensions, the public services and benefits.”
The attacks have seen serious resistance, with a powerful general strike on 22 November.
“We are organising people to fightback,” Luis said. “About 70 percent of the labour force did not work during the general strike on, making it a big success.
“But the government has made no compromise with the unions and is making the austerity plans even more severe. Now it wants to make changes to the labour law to make it easier to fire people.
“The government’s plans are all recessive—cutting public spending while there will be no private expenditure to replace it and no jobs created. The amount the state gets is decreasing as jobs are lost. The economy is falling down as the government attempts to balance the budget.
“The unions are continuing to demonstrate against the plans, and when the presidential election ends we will evaluate the need for harder action, such as a further general strike. We will also be calling for new elections, as people are very disgruntled with the Socialist Party government.”
The Left Bloc is supporting the Socialist candidate Manuel Allegre, who has disagreements with the government. The Bloc is putting forward a radical economic programme to ensure Portugal’s workers do not pay for capitalism’s turmoil.
Luis said, “Neoliberal policies are strangling Portugal and other weaker economies. The Left Bloc has an alternative economic programme to deal with the crisis. This includes increasing taxes on the financial sector, nationalising the energy companies, a 35-hour week, an urban reform plan and changing the eurozone stability pact.
“The pact says that each economy cannot have an annual budget deficit higher than 3 percent of gross domestic product, which is hurting many countries.”