Portuguese Prime Minister Mario Soares strongly defended the Socialist Party's deal with the conservative Centre Democrats when he presented his new government's recovery programme to Parliament on Thursday (2 February).
Portuguese Prime Minister Mario Soares strongly defended the Socialist Party's deal with the conservative Centre Democrats when he presented his new government's recovery programme to Parliament on Thursday (2 February). He made an appeal for all political parties and the trade union movement to work together to help Portugal to recover from its economic crisis. But even as he was speaking, the nation's rail system was paralysed by a four-hour strike and 20,000 teachers in Lisbon and the south were also striking.
SYNOPSIS: The 27,000 workers of the nationalised rail system halted trains for four hours throughout the country. They said the strike was to support a claim for a 15 per cent wages rise. Commentators also believe that this, and the teachers' strike, were a protest to express left-wing opposition to the inclusion of three conservatives in the new cabinet.
The strikes are seen as a direct rebuff to Dr. Soares' appeal during the swearing-in of ministers on Monday for workers not to confuse their legitimate freedoms with inconsiderate abuses. The parliamentary alliance of Socialists and Conservatives has already been attacked by the Communists and Social Democrats. On Saturday the Communist-dominated trade union confederation will meet to decide how members should react to a new government.
In his two-hour address to Parliament, Dr. Soares appealed to the opposition parties for social and political peace to allow the Government to tackle the nation's economic problems. He said that if the country continued to stagger from crisis to crisis, there was a serious threat to democracy itself. He praised the Centre Democrats for making possible an agreement to end the last crisis.
Dr. Soares said the main priorities in the Government's programme included a budget in March, and resumption of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a loan of GBP750,000,000 (1,400,000,000 U.S. dollars). Also included in the programme, contained in a 300 page volume handed to members at the end of his speech, are proposals for reducing inflation from its current annual level of approximately 34 per cent to a rate of 20 per cent through limits on wage rises. Debate on the programme is to start next week.