Portugal puts EU stability at risk as ‘alarming levels of discontent’ spread among voters | World | New
Portugal’s January presidential elections saw the far-right Chega party advance, an outcome that sent shock waves through the country’s political establishment. Political expert Marian Mendes has since warned that the “potential for a populist force” has simmered in Portugal for “a long time”, amid “alarming levels of distrust and satisfaction” with the Lisbon political establishment .
Believed that the new anti-establishment party did not cause an upheaval similar to that of Donald Trump, Chega leader Andre Ventura won 12% of the vote in the presidential elections.
Ms Mendes told Express.co.uk: “There was potential for mobilization on populist attitudes in Portugal for quite a long time.
“Not just since the economic crisis, even before that, even before the 2008 crisis, when you looked at surveys that measured for example people’s dissatisfaction with politics.
“With democracy with politicians, their confidence in political institutions, these surveys have already shown very alarming levels of mistrust and dissatisfaction.”
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The political analyst continued, “So the potential for a populist force has been around for a very long time.
“The reason why Chega, the radical right-wing party in Portugal, has emerged now, simply has to do with very circumstantial factors related to the fact that the person who created Chega Andre Ventura decided to create it at some point, but not before.
“But it could have emerged before actually.”
Ms Mendes’ comments come as spending watchdogs said Lisbon officials have always bought equipment, drinks and even clothes as if it was the status quo despite the pandemic that has made large-scale summits and in-person events banned, with most meetings taking place online.
Portugal has reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of euros since starting its six-month rotating period as EU Council head in January, despite its Covid-imposed ‘shadow presidency’.
More than £ 223,000 has been spent on a state-of-the-art press center in Lisbon, although briefings are being held online and foreign journalists do not travel to the Portuguese capital.
A wine company presented Lisbon with a drinks bill of £ 31,000 at a time when very few people are attending events and officials signed a £ 34,000 contract to buy 360 shirts and 180 suits while most officials of the presidency work from home.
Critics have also voiced concerns over corporate sponsorships the Portuguese Presidency has signed with various companies, some of which appear to go against EU policies.
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Susana Coroado, president of Transparência e Integridade, the Portuguese wing of Transparency International, told Politico.eu: “The presidency seems to be less focused on working meetings and more on selling Portugal to the outside world.
Ms Coroado said the contracts and sponsorships reflected a country that does not properly control public spending and has a bad habit “of trying to use high level international frameworks to promote itself”.
She said that despite a record number of new coronavirus cases in Lisbon in January, the Presidency had insisted on holding in-person meetings with several Commission members in the Portuguese capital just weeks after the start of the new Year.
She said: “The government is behaving like the Titanic Orchestra, determined to organize five-star events even though it is clear that they should not take place. This is very typical in Portugal, where our system of government procurement is very problematic. “