INTRODUCTION: Socialist leader Mario Soares emerged victorious from a sometimes-stormy Party Congress in Lisbon on Saturday (9 May).
CU Socialist Party sign PULL BACK TO rostrum PAN TO Party President Antonio Macedo speaking. (2 SHOTS)
GV Delegates applaud.
SCU Party Secretary-General Mario Soares.
GV Delegates applaud. (standing ovation).
SV Soares speaking in French.
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Socialist leader Mario Soares emerged victorious from a sometimes-stormy Party Congress in Lisbon on Saturday (9 May). He won backing for proposals which will leave him free from the control of all the party's bodies except the Congress itself. Mr. Soares wanted the new powers so that he would make a deal with the ruling right-wing Democratic alliance coalition to exclude the military from politics in Portugal.
SYNOPSIS: Portugal's largest opposition party met against a background of fears of a military coup across the border in Spain, fears which have been fuelled by reports of contracts between right-wing Portuguese military officers and their Spanish counterparts. The government wanted to counter this threat by alerting the constitution to abolish the predominantly left-wing Council of the Revolution. They feared that clashes between the council and the military might lend to dangerous discontent on the right.
But to alter the constitution, the government must have a two-thirds majority in Parliament. So it needs the support of the Socialists.
The unruly debate was frequently interrupted by catcalls and booing. At one point the chairman felt obliged to appeal to official guests to refrain from joining in.
Mr. Soares faced the Congress knowing that 41 of his party's 66 Deputies in Parliament opposed him. But in the event he carried tow-thirds of the delegates with him and own a standing ovation, despite the objections of his critics to any deal with their ideological opponents in the ruling coalition.
Mr. Soares believes that an agreement with the Democratic alliance is essential. And he wants it concluded as soon as possible -- certainly before the end of the year. Form he says, failure to reach agreement could itself create a Parliamentary vacuum which could put the Council of the Revolution - which has powers to veto legislation - at loggerheads with he army, with no-one to keep them apart. mr. soares wants urgently to establish Portugal as a pillar of democracy in case there is a successful military coup across the border. It is said that Mr. Soares' changes to the Party's rules will give more power to the ordinary members. He now has two years before the next Party Congress to put his ideas to the test.