Just five years ago, Portugal was in the throes of revolution. On April 25th, 1974,?
Just five years ago, Portugal was in the throes of revolution. On April 25th, 1974, a military group overthrew the dictatorship that had ruled the country for nearly half a century. Since then, the Portuguese have been struggling to achieve stable government and to rebuild an economy disrupted by the effects of revolution and the loss of their colonel empire in Africa.
SYNOPSIS: The armed forces movement, wearing red carnations, carried out the revolution almost bloodlessly. They put General Antonio de Spinola, a former colonial governor, in place of the last dictator, Marcello Caetano. He and Colonel Goncalves Prime Minister in the early post-revolutionary days, have long since passed from the Portuguese political scene.
The Communist Party might have taken complete control. Its leader, Alvaro Cunhal, had returned from exile in eastern Europe. It encouraged the break-up of big estates, but attracted violent hostility in the conservative north.
The far left's last serious bid for power came in November 1975, under the leadership of General Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho. But his attempt was defeated by forces loyal to the existing government.
General Antonio Ramalho Eanes was elected President in 1976, under a new constitution. It had been agreed among the parties that the first President should be a politically independent military officer.
The Socialists were the largest party in parliament, and President Eanes asked their leader, Mario Soares, to form a government. But Dr. Soares did not have an absolute majority. After 18 months, he was forced into a coalition with the conservative Centre Democrats, under Professor Diogo Freitas do Amaral. Last July, the Centre Democrats withdrew their support, and President Eanes dismissed Dr. Soares.
President Eanes was elected for five years, and can serve one more term after that.
The President has come under some criticism from politicians who see him as wanting to return to a military regime -- though he himself has repeatedly said he wants to see the armed forces finally taken out of politics. After dismissing Dr. Soares as Prime Minister, he turned to non-party men. The present prime Minister, Professor Carlos Mota Pinto was his second choice, after Alfredo Nobre da Costa, a businessman, failed to get parliamentary support.
Professor Mota Pinto, like his predecessors, has run into trouble because of his attempts to restore economic stability to Portugal. He has proposed austerity measures which have aroused militant opposition from the Communist-led trades union.
Parliament defeated Professor Mota Pinto's budget last month, and it looked as though he might have to resign. But he survived because the Social Democrats, headed by Dr. Francisco Sa Carneiro, themselves split after withdrawing their support.
The Portuguese economy needs help -- which the International Monetary Fund is ready to provide once there is a settled government. A third of the people work on the land -- but it has to import half its food. The country needs more industry and more jobs before it can become strong enough to join the European Community.